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 Neto, Maria da Conceição (2012) In Town and Out of Town: A Social History of Huambo (Angola), 1902‐1961. PhD Thesis, SOAS, University of London Copyright © and Moral Rights for this thesis are retained by the author and/or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non‐commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This thesis cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder/s. The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders. When referring to this thesis, full bibliographic details including the author, title, awarding institution and date of the thesis must be given e.g. AUTHOR (year of submission) "Full thesis title", name of the School or Department, PhD Thesis, pagination. In Town and Out of Town:
A Social History of Huambo
Thesis submitted for the degree of PhD in History
Department of History
School of Oriental and African Studies
University of London
This thesis is a history of the Angolan city of Huambo from 1902 to 1961. It is about
social change, focusing mainly on people excluded from citizenship by Portuguese
colonial laws: the so-called 'natives', whose activities greatly shaped the economic
and social life of the city and changed their own lives in the process. Their
experiences in coping with and responding to the economic, social and political
constraints of the colonial situation were reconstructed from archival documents,
newspapers and bibliographical sources, complemented by a few interviews.
The early twentieth century witnessed far-reaching events in the central
highlands of Angola, where Governor Norton de Matos founded the city of Huambo
in 1912: the conquest of the Wambu kingdom, the advance of Christian missions, the
Portuguese policy of white settlement and the construction of the Benguela Railway
heading towards the Belgian Congo. These processes together made Huambo an
important trading, administrative and religious centre. Rural-urban interactions are
central to this research, since the economy relied almost entirely on peasant
production. Trade and transportation were the main activities of Portuguese settlers
throughout the period, with only marginal investments in industry.
Religion was another crucial factor in the social history of Huambo's
(Angola's most Christianized district by 1960), so the articulation of Christianity,
urbanization and social change is analysed, with a focus on the Catholic Missionaries
of the Holy Ghost. Renamed Nova Lisboa in 1928, the city supposedly stood as an
example of a 'European' town, although blacks living and working in and around it
outnumbered whites. The intended racial segregation was never totally achieved:
European petty merchants lived in the outskirts and people of all colours shared
modest peripheral neighbourhoods. However, racial distinction was firmly
established in Angola through the Native Statute, a legal barrier blocking the upward
social mobility of non-whites except for a tiny minority able to secure 'citizenship'
rights. The abolition of the statute in 1961 marked a new period in Angola's and in
Huambo's colonial history, not covered by this research.
List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
Chapter 1. Angola's central plateau before the colonial conquest
The place and the people
The remote past
Warfare and slave trade
The delayed and elusive abolition of slavery
Great caravans, great kings: a 'golden age'?
Wambu in the nineteenth century
Colonial military advances
The 1902-1904 war
Chapter 2. Huambo: A city is born
Portuguese imperial expansion and colonial politics (1880 to c. 1920)
From rubber traders to maize exporters
The meaning of defeat
Becoming 'natives'
The railway and the foundation of Cidade do Huambo
Chapter 3. Town and countryside: the first thirty years
Republicans, High Commissioners and Salazarism
From Cidade do Huambo to Nova Lisboa
The Native Statute
Working in town, out of town and beyond
Chapter 4. Christians in town
The Catholic Church: from privilege to marginalization
and to privilege again
What did Christian faith 'overcome'?
Vakwasikola: 'People of the School'
Kanye: 'The Mission is ours'
The forging of an elite and the difficult emergence of an African clergy
Faith, social control and cultural change.
Chapter 5. Townspeople but not citizens, c.1945-1961
Resisting the winds of change
Peasants, workers and many others
Shifting limits: town, suburbs and villages
Law and order
Looking for a way out
Sources and Bibliography
List of Illustrations
Map 1. The central plateau of Angola.
Map 2. Political divisions and historical dates.
Map 3. Samisasa, the last independent capital of Wambu.
Map 4. The network of the Catholic missions in the 1930s.
Map 5. Huambo: the first plan of the city (1912).
Map 6. Huambo: detail from the 1947 urban plan.
Map 7. Huambo and neighbouring areas (1953).
Figure 1. Catechists from the Huambo (Kwando) mission, 1928.
Figure 2. Women from Huambo (Kwando) mission, 1949.
Figure 3. The Municipal Council in the late 1920s.
Figure 4. A future avenue in the 1920s.
Figure 5. Aspect of the city in the late 1950s.
Figure 6. Another aspect of the city in the late 1950s.
Figures 7, 8, 9 and 10. Pages from a Caderneta indígena.
Figure 11. Bilhete de identidade.
Table 1. Population growth in Huambo Posto Sede 1933-1940.
Table 2. The four main Angolan cities in 1940.
Table 3. Huambo: Religion among 'non civilized' population.
List of Abbreviations
ACSSp - Spiritan Archives: Archives générales spiritaines, Chevilly-Larue (Paris).
ACSSp-Lisbon - Spiritan archives in Portugal (Lisbon).
AGC - Agência Geral das Colónias
AHM - Arquivo Histórico Militar (Lisbon)
AHU - Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino (Lisbon)
AHU/MU/GM/GNP - Fundo Ministério do Ultramar, Secção Gabinete do Ministro, SubSecção Gabinete dos Negócios Políticos.
ANA - Arquivo Nacional de Angola (Luanda)
ANTT - Instituto dos Arquivos Nacionais - Torre do Tombo (Lisbon)
BAGC - Boletim da Agência Geral das Colónias
BAGC - Boletim da Agência Geral das Colónias/do Ultramar
BO - Boletim Oficial da Província de Angola
BSGL - Boletim da Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa
CCFB - Companhia do Caminho-de-Ferro de Benguela: The Benguela Railways Company.
CEAUP - Centro de Estudos Africanos da Universidade do Porto
CEHCA - Centro de Estudos de História e Cartografia Antiga (Lisbon)
CEHCA/IICT - Centro de Estudos de História e Cartografia Antiga/Instituto de Investigação
Científica Tropical.
CFB - Caminho-de-Ferro de Benguela: Benguela Railway.
CGD/BNU - Fundo Banco Nacional Ultramarino, Arquivo Caixa Geral de Depósitos
CJAS - Canadian Journal of African Studies
CNCDP - Comissão Nacional para as Comemorações dos Descobrimentos Portugueses
IICT - Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical (Lisbon)
IJAHS - International Journal of African Historical Studies
ILO - International Labour Organization
IPAD/MU - Instituto Português de Apoio ao Desenvolvimento. Centro de Documentação.
Fundo Ministério do Ultramar.
JACS - Journal of African Cultural Studies
JAH - Journal of African History
JSAS - Journal of Southern African Studies
MPLA - Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola
PO – Provincial Ordinance (Portaria Provincial)
SOAS-SC - SOAS Special Collections: Missionary Archives (London).
UNITA - União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola
Glossary of Umbundu and Portuguese terms
(Terms used only once are not included here but explained in the text. Umbundu words are
Administrador - Administrator in charge of a Circunscrição or Concelho, subdivided into
Postos. It was a position of responsibility in the colonial administration, below
Governor-General (Governador-Geral), District or Provincial Governor and District
Angariador (also engajador) - travelling labour recruiter, authorized by the colonial state to
recruit so-called 'natives' for working in plantations, fisheries, mines and so on.
Angolar - Angola's official currency between August 1928 and December 1958, when it
became the escudo again.
Assimilado - loosely meaning any African who adopted many aspects of European culture, it
was also used as synonymous with civilizado (civilized), the legal term to refer to
black and mixed-race people who were not under the Native Statute, being not
'natives' but 'Portuguese citizens'.
Bilhete de identidade - Portuguese identification document extended in the colonies to the
so-called 'civilized' who in principle enjoyed the same rights as white Portuguese
Caderneta indígena - identification document for so-called 'natives'. Beginning as a working
pass (certificado de trabalho) in 1913, in time it included the registering of taxes,
workplaces, travel and so on. It lasted until the abolition of the Native Statute in 1961.
Capitania-Mor - political and military administrative subdivision of the colony, before
civilian administration in the twentieth century replaced it with 'circunscrição' or
Capitão-mor - captain-major, the official in charge of a capitania-mor.
Chefe de Posto - chief of the Posto, the lowest level of the colonial administrative division.
Cipaio (pl. cipaios) - member of the 'native' police force used by the Portuguese
Curador - in this context, guardian, someone responsible for protecting the rights and the
well-being of a certain group. Curador dos serviçais: Serviçais' Guardian; Curador
dos indígenas: Natives' Guardian; Curadoria dos Indígenas: Natives' Guardian Office.
Ensino rudimentar - the rudimentary education 'natives' should complete before entering
primary (elementar) level or trade schools. The 1941 statute entrusted the Catholic
missions with it. In 1956, it was renamed Ensino de adaptação.
Escudo - official currency in colonial Angola between 1911 and 1928 and between 1959 and
1975. The Angolan escudo, not equivalent to the Portuguese escudo, circulated only in
Gentílico, gentílica - referring to so-called 'non-civilized' Africans: questões gentílicas
(native cases), autoridades gentílicas (native chiefs).
Gentio (pl. gentios) - In Angola, it first meant non-Christian, then any African not yet
submitted to Portuguese rule or not influenced by European culture. It was also used
as a derogatory term meaning uncivilized.
Imposto de palhota or imposto de cubata - literally hut tax, after 1919 substituted by a polltax, imposto indígena.
Indígena (pl. indígenas) - originally meaning native, autochthon, the word was used in most
of the twentieth-century Portuguese empire to define a legal status restricting the
rights of the vast majority of the non-white population in the colonial society. It was
regulated by the Native Statute (Estatuto dos Indígenas), first promulgated in 1926,
last updated in 1954 and finally abolished in 1961.
Indigenato - the judicial and political system used in some Portuguese colonies (Angola,
Mozambique and Guinea) between 1926 and 1961, based on the Native Statute
applied to 'blacks and their descendants'.
Jagas (sing. jaga) - a name given to different groups, but in most of Angola synonymous
with the wandering bands in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries also known as
Imbangala, which met European slave traders on the coast and then had a decisive role
in the politics of the region, either helping or fighting the Portuguese. Their warrior
brotherhood and lifestyle included violent rituals, the rejection of kinship and getting
young new members from the peoples they attacked.
Kilombo (Kimbundu), quilombo (Portuguese) - in Angola, it was the war camp and the
militarized political organization of the Imbangala or Jaga warrior bands. In Umbundu
ocilombo (pl. ovilombo or ilombo) also means the night camp of a long-distance
commercial caravan and, in some areas, the secluded place of boys' circumcision rites.
Mestiço (pl. mestiços) - a broad term for a mixed-race person who has black and white
Morador (pl. moradores) - means resident but in this context it was someone from the
Portuguese colony living and trading in the still independent African kingdoms.
Ocumbo (Umbundu) - a special garden near the house; a kitchen garden.
Olofumbelo (sing. fumbelo) (Umbundu) - currently meaning both 'rich' and 'merchant', it
once meant wealthy caravan traders.
Ombala (pl. olombala) (Umbundu) - main village or seat of kingdom.
Onaka (pl. olonaka) (Umbundu) - a field cultivated on low and wet lands near streams.
Palmatória - flat paddle made of hard wood, with holes in it, once used for corporal
punishment in schools. In the colonies, it had a much wider use against adult 'natives'.
The strokes with a palmatória were palmatoadas.
Portaria - ordinance; by-law.
Posto Sede - the Posto was the basic unit of the twentieth-century Portuguese colonial
administration and the seat (sede) of the Circunscrição or Concelho was inside the
Posto Sede.
Regedor (pl. regedores) - 1. A semi-official representative of the colonial state in areas
where a proper administrative staff was non-existent. 2. A so-called 'native' chief
appointed by Portuguese authorities in the absence of, or with disregard for, traditional
Sanzala (Portuguese, from Kimbundu) or sanjala (Umbundu) - an African neighbourhood
not far from an urban centre and supposedly only for so-called 'natives'. In Portuguese
it also meant an African village.
Sekulu (pl. olosekulu) (Umbundu); secúlo (pl. secúlos) (Portuguese) - a village headman or a
dignitary. In Portuguese, its use was extended to elders in general.
Serviçais (also serviçaes, sing. serviçal) - the term, meaning servants, was largely in use in
the early twentieth century to designate labourers, recruited mostly by force. Later on,
'contratado' (contract worker) became a more common word.
Soba, sova (Portuguese from Kimbundu sóvà, pl. jisòvá.), or soma (Umbundu) (pl. olosoma)
- African chief ruling over a number of villages and subordinate headmen. In
Umbundu, soma inene (great soma) designated a 'king' ruling over other olosoma. In
Portuguese, soba came to include any chief or headman.
Sobado - the area ruled by a soma or soba.
Tribunal Privativo dos Indígenas - literally, Natives' Private Court. The promulgation of the
Native Statute implied a distinct system of justice for the so-called 'natives'. A 'Native
Court' functioned in each administrative centre, run by the Portuguese authority.
Tratado de vassalagem - vassal treaty. Anachronistic term used until the late nineteenth
century for a solemn agreement between Portuguese and African authorities, both
expecting to promote trade and to get military support if necessary. The African chief
was baptized with a Christian name and declared to be a 'vassal' of the king of
Traditionally, this is the place to thank those who encouraged and supported me in
the many years before I decided to start this thesis and the many years it took me to
finish it. I am sure I cannot, in a few paragraphs, thank all the people to whom I am
in debt intellectually or otherwise. The years of my research and writing up were also
marked by the death of close relatives and friends, making it even more difficult to
acknowledge all the people I would like to thank. So, I will keep this short and
simple. I hope that those who are not mentioned do not feel themselves forgotten,
because they are not.
John Parker, as a supervisor, gave me the freedom I wanted but also the advice
I needed to curb my tendency to write long chapters and digressive footnotes. John's
patience and generosity went well beyond his duties as a supervisor, and I owe him
special thanks. I could never have come to SOAS without support from my own
university, Universidade Agostinho Neto in Luanda, which secured me a three year
scholarship from the Angolan Government, thanks to professor Kiamvo Tamo.
While in Britain, the Angolan Embassy provided support whenever I needed it and I
am very grateful for that. I would never have finished my thesis, after the scholarship
ended, without the financial contribution from my family and also from several
friends in Britain, Angola and Portugal. I do not want to risk embarrassing them by
mentioning their names. But thank you all!
Without the warm hospitality of Ana Maria Carreira and Mário de Almeida
(Kasesa) and, later on, Marga Holness, in London, this would most probably be an
unfinished thesis. I appreciate their support more than I can tell and I hope Marga
does not think her efforts to teach me good English were in vain. Although
Canterbury is not round the corner, Elizabeth and David Birmingham made me feel
that they were always there for me. David was also responsible, together with the late
Jill Dias, for my coming to SOAS, and I owe him a lot.
A researcher depends greatly on the staff in the archives where research is
carried on. I would like to thank every person in archives who helped me on many
different occasions, but the Angolan National Archives have a special place in my
work and in my heart. Its directors, first Rosa Cruz e Silva and then Alexandra
Aparício, as well as all the staff there, were very supportive of my research; a special
thanks must go to Mateus Neto, in the Códices section. The archives of the Spiritans
in France deserve a special reference too, not only for the professional skills of
Father Gérard Vieira, but also for the hospitality provided in their own house. This
thesis owes much to people from Huambo or who have lived there who shared their
knowledge with me. Apart from the interviewees listed as oral sources, my thanks to
Zaida Daskalos, Manuel Dias Nogueira, Father Bongo, José Soveral Dias, among
others. Shula Marks and Phyllis Martin provided sound advice at different stages of
my too ambitious project. In this age of e-mailing, distance did not hinder stimulating
discussions on subjects related to my thesis, like the ones I recall with Sandra Roque,
Didier Péclard, Fernando Pacheco, Michel Cahen, Aida Freudenthal, Marcelo
Bittencourt, Paula Tavares, Franz Heimer, Cláudia Castelo, Maria Emília Madeira
Santos, Fernando Florêncio, Jessica Dionne and Helena Janeiro. And I certainly miss
Christine Messiant and her passion for going deeper into the understanding of social
processes. Again, I extend my thanks to many other people, in the academic field or
outside it, who helped to keep alive my interest in researching and teaching history.
Among them, a special word for my past and future students in Angola, who, I hope,
will go much further than me.
At home, in Luanda, many friends did their part to make this thesis possible but
I feel my debt is greatest to Leonel Eduardo (Nelito) and Wanda Lara. In Lisbon, the
list of friends is long, with Paula Tavares having a very special place. But in Portugal
my greatest debt is to my mother, Maria José, and my stepfather, Vasco Martins
Silva, who considered it their job to do whatever necessary to ensure that I would not
give up. Vasco could not see the result of his efforts but this thesis is dedicated to
This thesis is a history of the Angolan city of Huambo and its hinterland from 1902
to 1961. When the town was officially founded in a solemn ceremony in September
1912, it was little more than a modest railway station and a temporary building
housing the Portuguese colonial administration. By 1974, on the eve of Angola's
independence, Huambo (renamed Nova Lisboa) was the country's second largest
city. It was badly affected by the post-independence wars, both in terms of its built
environment and its social fabric, before peace returned to Angola in 2002. These
days in Huambo, memories of the past are either fading rapidly or tending to idealize
the colonial period before the town was ravaged by the civil war. This social history
will hopefully give the city the place it deserves in the history of Angola.
This thesis was inspired, in part, by an international conference on Africa's
urban past held in 1996 at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.1 In
their introduction to the resulting edited volume, David Anderson and Richard
Rathbone synthesized the state of urban history in Africa.2 Research into Africa's
towns and cities, they argued, had traditionally been dominated by geographers,
sociologists and anthropologists, while historians had worked more on peasant
societies or on elites involved in nationalist struggles. But the situation was changing
and historians were urged to 'move towards a greater awareness of those factors
which may be unique to a particular urban experience and those which may allow a
more comparative approach'.3 The Angolan city of Huambo was certainly unique in
See David M. Anderson and Richard Rathbone (eds), Africa's Urban Past (Oxford, 2000).
The SOAS conference came ten years after a conference in Paris on the same subject: see
Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch (ed.), Processus d'urbanisation en Afrique, 2 vols (Paris,
1988); and Michel Cahen (ed.), 'Vilas' et cidades': Bourgs et villes en Afrique lusophone
(Paris, 1989).
Anderson and Rathbone, Africa’s Urban Past, 1-17.
Ibid, 9.
some aspects, but it was also a railway city, an administrative and commercial centre,
and an outpost of European settlement, comparable to others in Africa and beyond.
Anderson and Rathbone also stressed that 'even where colonial cities are
explicitly modern creations…the peoples who have come to live in those places have
brought their own cultural values and aspirations with them, fashioning distinctive
forms of urbanism'.4 They underlined two tendencies restricting the development of a
social history of African urbanism from the 1970s: first, historians accepted too
easily the idea of the town as a colonial and modern creation; second, comparative
studies were also hampered because those histories of cities which had been written
were linked into regional historiographies with their own particularities. They
optimistically noted that a 'critical mass of urban historical research' had been
reached and comparative work was expected to flourish.5
This, however, it is still not the case for the former Portuguese colonies,
especially Angola. Angola’s 'colonial cities' have only recently caught the attention
of historians. The few significant studies, mostly concentrating on the capital
Luanda, have tended to be written by geographers, sociologists, architects and
anthropologists.6 One notable exception is Marissa Moorman's recent book on the
history of popular music and politics in Luanda in the late colonial period.7 Yet for
the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, written sources are abundant in archives in
Ibid, 11.
Ilídio do Amaral, Luanda: Estudo de Geografia Urbana (Lisbon, 1968); Ruy Duarte de
Carvalho, Ana a Manda - Os Filhos da Rede - Identidade Colectiva, Criatividade Social e
Produção da Diferença Cultural: Um Caso Muxiluanda (Luanda, 1989); Christine
Messiant, 'Luanda (1945-1961): Colonisés, société coloniale et engagement nationaliste', in
Cahen, 'Vilas' et 'cidades', 125-99; Fernando A. Mourão, Continuidades e Descontinuidades
de um Processo Colonial Através de uma Leitura de Luanda: Uma Interpretação do
Desenho Urbano (São Paulo, 2006); Aida Freudenthal, José Manuel Fernandes and Maria
de Lurdes Janeiro, Angola no Século XIX: Cidades, Território e Arquitecturas (Lisbon,
Marissa Moorman, Intonations: A Social History of Music and Nation, Luanda, Angola,
1945-Recent Times (Athens, Ohio, 2008). See too Egídio Sousa Santos, A Cidade de
Malanje na Historia de Angola (dos finais do século XIX até 1975) (Luanda, 2006), which
provides useful information but is of little interest for social history.
Angola and Portugal. The absence of urban studies lies mainly in the perception that
'colonial cities' are purely modern colonial constructs with little or no contribution
from Africans and in the persistent idea that the 'real Africa', at least in tropical
Africa, was to be found in rural villages. As John Parker has noted, the dualism of
town and country, abandoned elsewhere, 'proved remarkably persistent in the African
and Asian context, where colonial cities were seen as foreign implants distinct from
the wider indigenous environment'.8 The way Angolan urbanites were described in
colonial times still resonates in current discourses: city dwellers are seen to be 'lost',
'uprooted', 'detribalized', 'alienated'. The urban environment under Portuguese rule
was supposedly shaped only by the white settlers' interests and culture. The small
African elites that eventually emerged had been subject to a process of 'assimilation',
the price of citizenship being the abandonment or concealment of indigenous
languages and cultures. That reinforced the idea of the 'de-Africanization' of the
urban population, in contrast with the supposed 'purity' of African cultures surviving
in rural areas. Such views completely overlooked two important historical processes:
first, the emergence of foreign-induced cultural change around Christian missions in
rural areas since the 1880s, accompanying and sometimes preceding colonial
occupation; second, the slow but steady growth of the African urban population,
which was overwhelmingly comprised not of 'citizens' but of 'natives', who spoke
indigenous Bantu languages or were bilingual and retained connections with their
rural backgrounds and 'traditions' while adopting new urban lifestyles. Even Luanda
in the 1950s was not the 'creole island' still represented in some studies of Angola.9
John Parker, Making the Town: Ga State and Society in Early Colonial Accra (Portsmouth,
New Hampshire, 2000), xxi.
Mário António de Oliveira, Luanda, 'Ilha' Crioula (Lisbon, 1968), a much quoted work,
highlighted one segment of Luanda's population and the characteristics it shared with other
Atlantic spaces, rather than studying the urban population as a whole. The model for a
'creole' society in Portuguese colonies was the Cape Verde islands and it should be noted
that in colonial Angola, the term crioulo was originally synonymous with Cape Verdian
identity. Crioulo was later extended to groups and societies so diverse in space and time that
Further to these problematic characterizations were dichotomies stressing stark
oppositions instead of continuity and relativity: traditional versus modern and rural
versus urban. Such dichotomies have been challenged in African history but still
have wide currency in studies of Angola. This work on Huambo provides further
evidence of a situation where a clear-cut frontier between rural and urban is
nonexistent. Rural-urban interaction and continuities are evident in a city whose
economy relied almost entirely on peasant production. Trade and transportation were
the main activities of Portuguese settlers throughout the period, with only marginal
investments in industry. Once the focus turns to the 'peri-urban' areas, the urban-rural
continuum becomes apparent, whether in the landscape, in economic activities or in
family life.
As Frederick Cooper has written, 'studying colonial history reminds us that in
the most oppressive of political systems, people found not just niches in which to
hide and fend for themselves, but handles by which the system itself could be
moved'.10 During my research on Huambo I often felt the tension between, on the
one hand, my desire to explore how its people carried on their lives with more or less
success, rather than seeing them simply as 'victims' and, on the other, the need to
demonstrate how they were, in so many aspects, blocked by the nature of the colonial
situation, and in particular by the legal status of 'native'.11 I have tried to avoid the
pitfalls of seeing their experience as something intrinsically different from that of
other stories of 'peasants-into-urbanites', or of treating their colonial experience as
the concept lost any analytical utility it may have had. Jill Dias adopted it, with caveats, to
compare Angola before the 1930s with other 'creole' experiences in West Africa, but her
work confirms that Luanda was not a 'sociological island' cut off from its African
hinterland: Jill Dias, 'Uma questão de identidade: Respostas intelectuais às transformações
económicas no seio da elite crioula da Angola Portuguesa entre 1870 e 1930', Revista Internacional de Estudos Africanos, 1 (1984), 61-94.
Frederick Cooper, Africa since 1940: The Past of the Present (Cambridge, 2002), 242.
For the 'colonial situation', see Georges Balandier's famous article (1951) translated as
'The colonial situation: A theoretical approach', in Immanuel Wallerstein (ed.), Social
Change: The Colonial Situation (New York, 1966), 34-61; see also his Ambiguous Africa:
Cultures in Collision (London, 1966), 169-95.
similar to any other history of subjugation and exploitation. In the end, this social
history of Huambo, incomplete as it is, confirms Cooper's comment.
This work deals with a variety of different themes and the main secondary
references are provided in the respective chapters. But a few authors need to be
mentioned here, because their work has been particularly important to me. Frederick
Cooper's writings have long been an inspiration, whether on colonial policies, on
labour issues, on peasants or on more theoretical subjects.12 For different reasons,
Phyllis Martin on leisure and on the Catholic women of Congo-Brazzaville, Jeanne
Penvenne and Valdemir Zamparoni on Maputo, Charles-Didier Gondola on Kinshasa
and Brazzaville, and Andrew Burton on Dar-es-Salaam, all had a significant impact
on my own work.13 John Parker's history of Accra provides a contrasting example of
a very different sort of African city, although one which shares many of my
methodological concerns about urban history.
This study began as an attempt to look at a certain region of central Angola as
part of the African experience of colonial rule in the twentieth century. Yet, many
pages are devoted to discussing Portuguese colonial doctrines and policies through
time, not only as a framework for what was going on in Huambo, but also as a
contribution to better informed comparisons with other colonial regimes. One key
theme runs through this history of Huambo: the indigenato, the special legal status
Cooper, Africa since 1940; idem, Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History
(Berkeley, 2005); idem, Decolonization and African Society. The Labor Question in French
and British Africa (Cambridge, 1996); idem, 'Citizenship and the politics of difference in
French Africa, 1946-1960', in Harald Fischer-Tiné and Susan Gehrmann (eds), Empires and
Boundaries: Rethinking Race, Class and Gender in Colonial Settings (London, 2009), 10728.
Phyllis Martin, Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (Cambridge, 1995); idem,
Catholic Women of Congo-Brazzaville: Mothers and Sisters in Troubled Times
(Bloomington, 2009); Jeanne Marie Penvenne, African Workers and Colonial Racism:
Mozambican Strategies and Struggles in Lourenço Marques, 1877-1962 (Portsmouth, New
Hampshire, 1995); Valdemir Zamparoni, De Escravo a Cozinheiro: Colonialismo e
Racismo em Moçambique (Salvador de Bahia, 2007); Charles-Didier Gondola, Villes
miroirs: Migrations et identités urbaines à Kinshasa et Brazzaville, 1930-1970 (Paris,
1996); Andrew Burton, African Underclass: Urbanisation, Crime and Colonial Order in
Dar es Salaam (London, 2005).
for African 'natives' regulated by the so-called Native Statute, which existed in
Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau until 1961. Despite being mentioned by
most authors dealing with twentieth-century Portuguese colonies, I believe that the
full scope and implications of the system have been either overlooked or treated as
only another unjust aspect of Portuguese colonial rule. I examine the progressive
construction of the system in Angola, from its origins as a device to control and
coerce labour to an overarching strategy that defined the place of the overwhelming
majority of Angolans in colonial society and that protected white settlers from
economic and political competition.14 It must be noted that not all natives became
'natives': the term is not interchangeable with African or black, and mixed-race
people could also be subject to the Native Statute. So the inverted commas will stay
throughout the text whenever referring to 'natives' as the people under the Native
Statute. This, I hope, will keep the reader aware that 'native' status was not a cultural
or political divide common in all periods of colonization but a twentieth-century
legal imposition, with implications for all aspects of life. It was based on 'race' since
it applied, to use the colonial terminology, only to 'the blacks and their descendents',
all other criteria coming after this fundamental distinction.
It is useful to distinguish colonial ideology from both colonial doctrines and
actual policies on the ground. The ideology can be found in the body of philosophical
and political ideas that gave an overall coherence and justification to the European
colonisation of Africa from the end of the nineteenth century to the 1940s, at least. It
is ideology in the sense that it was not confined to the restricted circle of theoretical
discussions and of policy makers but became part of the basic assumptions of the
'common man' and of many collective institutions in European societies (Christian
For a recent discussion, see Michel Cahen, 'Indigenato before race? Some proposals on
Portuguese forced labour law in Mozambique and the African Empire (1926-1962)', in
Francisco Bethencourt and Adrian Pearce (eds), Racism and Ethnic Relations in the
Portuguese-Speaking World (Oxford, forthcoming).
churches included). The ideology of European racial and cultural supremacy was
used, as we know, to legitimate colonial conquest, economic exploitation, the
displacement of populations, the construction of legal systems based on racial
inequality and the repression of opposition and dissent. Despite the variety of
interests and motivations, that ideology was firmly embedded in official discourse
and in public opinion, in Portugal as in other colonial metropoles. Opinions diverged,
however, on how to make the most of the African colonies and on how to deal with
Africans. Discussions sooner or later developed into a 'colonial doctrine': a corpus of
principles, methods, strategies and administrative options. These were adopted or
rejected (overall or for a specific territory) by the metropolitan imperial state. They
reflected the particular political regime and the administrative traditions of each
European country, as well as their inherited experience from earlier Asian or
American colonies.
Yet colonial doctrines also depended upon the reactions of African societies to
the establishment of foreign rule. They also changed over time and according to
place and, sometimes, opinions diverged even within a government or a political
party. Those internal debates at the centre of empires were important. The dominant
colonial doctrine determined at least two decisive aspects: the economic ties between
the colony and its metropole (more or less protectionist, for instance) and the legal
frame of the relationship between colonisers and colonised, that is, the legal status
and the (lack of) rights of the latter. For the first half of the twentieth century,
economic policies varied but all colonial powers converged in creating a status of
non-citizenship for the majority of the colonised. The Portuguese developed their
indigenato system, similar to the French indigénat.15 However, neither the overall
Maria C. Neto, 'Ideologias, contradições e mistificações da colonização de Angola no
século XX', Lusotopie (1997), 327-59; Gregory Mann, 'What was the indigénat? The
"empire of law" in French West Africa', Journal of African History [hereafter JAH], 50
(2009), 331-53; Elizabeth Vera Cruz, O Estatuto do Indigenato: Angola – A Legalização da
ideology nor the doctrine developed in London, Lisbon or Paris are enough to
explain how colonial rule was imposed in the colonies, let alone to understand how it
worked in practice. 'Colonial policy' (or a similar expression) has a broader meaning
and focuses more on individual territories. Colonial policy was of course marked by
the ideology of race supremacy and in many aspects depended upon the dominant
doctrine. But it refers to their application in each concrete colonial situation. That
depended, largely, on the decisions and actions of local officials and their
interactions with the colonial society at large. So the discussion of colonial policies
as they impacted upon Angola in general and upon Huambo in particular takes into
account not only laws and decrees but also the local administrative legislation and
the way those rules were applied or circumvented, according to the evolving
economic, social and political context.
'Integration' and 'association' were principles that at different moments
informed mainstream colonial doctrines in the French, Belgian and Portuguese
empires. 'Integration' meant that the colonies were to be ruled according to the same
laws as the metropole or, at least, tending to that. Those among the colonized who
could prove that they had a 'civilized' way of life (that is, having 'assimilated' enough
European culture) were entitled to the same rights, that is, to full citizenship.16
According to the 'association' principle, however, the colonies were by definition
different from their metropoles and they should be ruled accordingly, by a different
set of laws. It has been said that France and Portugal tended to choose assimilation
and that the British tended to avoid it. In fact, as we know, existing differences were
greatly determined by the economic and political realities in different colonies, rather
than by those doctrines. And if we look to the results, those who were supposed to
practice 'assimilation' did not produce more 'westernized' individuals than those who
Discriminação na Colonização Portuguesa (Lisbon, 2005).
See Alexander Keese, Living with Ambiguity: Integrating an African Elite in French and
Portuguese Africa, 1930-61 (Stuttgart, 2007).
did not inscribe 'assimilation' in their colonial doctrines. In both cases, the way
Christian missionaries did their job was probably more influential than any other
single factor. Anyway, Portuguese colonization in Angola, Guiné and Mozambique
in the first half of twentieth century was no longer 'assimilationist' and the Native
Statute was more of a barrier than it was a ladder to climb.
I originally set out to study a specifically urban population, considering that the
rural Ovimbundu people of Angola's central highlands had already been the subject
of some academic work. Yet I end up paying equal attention to Huambo's rural
hinterland, without which the city would never have developed as it did. As A. L.
Epstein, one of the founders of urban sociology in Africa, noted, 'Towns…are not
self-contained social entities, but have their place within a wider field of social
relationships. The study of urbanization needs also to include therefore the analysis
of relations between the various towns themselves, as well as these of rural and urban
areas'.17 A further issue was that of some contradictions in the work of previous
scholars on central Angola. There has been a tendency to emphasize the
Ovimbundu's relative success as farmers, whether 'traditional' or 'modern', but to
underline their economic decay and poverty. Similarly, scholars have stressed the
Ovimbundu's massive adoption of some form of Christian faith, which could not
have happened without a high degree of individual and collective commitment and
mobilization – but in the end tend to characterize the adaptation of new cultural
features as 'identity loss' or cultural disintegration.18 Christine Messiant's sociological
A. L. Epstein, 'Urbanization and Social Change in Africa', Current Anthropology, 4
(1967), 284.
René Pélissier, História das Campanhas de Angola: Resistências e Revoltas 1845-1941
(Lisbon, 1986), II, 61-101; idem, La colonie du minotaure: Nationalismes et révoltes en
Angola (1926-1961) (Orgeval, 1978); Gladwyn Murray Childs, Umbundu Kinship and
Character (London, 1949); Hermann Pössinger, 'Interrelations between economic and social
change in rural Africa: The case of the Ovimbundu of Angola', in Franz-Wilhelm Heimer
(ed.), Social Change in Angola (Munich, 1973), 32-52; Franz-Wilhelm Heimer, The
Decolonization Conflict in Angola, 1974-1976: An Essay in Political Sociology (Geneva,
1979); Adrian C. Edwards, The Ovimbundu Under Two Sovereignties: A Study of Social
analysis of Angola before 1961 stands as the study on colonial Angola in the 1950s
and contains a full discussion of previous academic work.19 She disagrees with the
centrality of ethnic divisions in earlier analyses of Angolan nationalism and the
characterization of most of rural Angola as societies in which the reproduction of
political, economic and ideological processes were still intact, outside the central
colonial nucleus, arguing that the reality by 1960 was 'extremely nuanced'.20 In the
absence of historical research on central Angola, Messiant's comments on 'the slow
integration-disintegration of the Ovimbundu' were based on authors who underlined
the disappearance of local polities and the decay of rural societies after the 'golden
age' of the caravan trade, with urban centres destroying what was left of the old
decomposition' are explained by 'the general impoverishment' of Ovimbundu
peasants, by the 'isolation and dispersion' of migrant workers, and by 'social
atomisation' that occurred after the 'dissolution of balanced social structures existing
during the caravan period'. This picture is not totally false, but it leaves little room
for Ovimbundu agency in the forging of new adaptive strategies and wrongly
suggests an overall linear decay since the early twentieth century.21 Messiant,
however, understood the role of Christianization in what she called the 'cultural
integration' of most Ovimbundu in colonial society, and she crucially noted that their
'assimilation' tendency was 'less a wish to identify with white people than a wish for
social advancement and a strong capacity for adaptation to the changed conditions'.22
Control and Social Change among a People of Angola (London, 1962); Fernando Diogo da
Silva, O Huambo: Mão-de-obra Rural no Mercado de Trabalho de Angola (Luanda, 1970).
Christine Messiant, 1961: L'Angola colonial, histoire et société : Les prémisses du
mouvement nationaliste (Basel, 2006). The original text is from 1983.
Ibid, 390-1.
See John Lonsdale, 'Agency in tight corners: Narrative and initiative in African history',
Journal of African Cultural Studies [hereafter JACS], 1 (2000), 5-16.
Messiant, 1961: l'Angola colonial, 363-73. She acknowledged, however, that due to the
lack of reliable data, her section on urban Ovimbundu could only be hypothetical.
But her discussion of African elites in central Angola overlooked the 'Catholic
world', for which there was no study to rely on.23
There is neither an overall history of Angola in the twentieth century nor a
useful synthesis for the period after 1930.24 René Pélissier and Christine Méssiant
provide, in different ways, useful historical background to the anti-colonial struggle.
Gerald Bender's work was important in exposing the myth of 'lusotropicalism', but is
superficial or ill-informed about Angolan history in general.25 Recent research has
contributed to Angola's labour history, making ample use of oral sources.26 White
settlers have recently attracted some attention, which contributed to my decision not
to deal further with Huambo's European population. I chose instead to focus on those
who, being the overwhelming majority, were not recognized as urbanites or were
treated just as part of the scenery, not as real actors. They were once conspicuously
absent from newspapers, essays and memoirs, as they are now absent from the
burgeoning production of memories of colonial times.27
Among current scholars, Linda Heywood is probably the best known historian
of central Angola in the English-speaking world. Heywood's work contains much
valuable information but, as will be evident in later chapters, I often disagree with
Ibid, 400.
For collections of essays on select issues, see Heimer, Social Change in Angola; David
Birmingham, Empire in Africa: Angola and its Neighbors (Athens, Ohio, 2006); idem,
Portugal and Africa (Athens, Ohio, 1999); Douglas Wheeler and René Pélissier, Angola,
(New York, 1971), translated recently into Portuguese as História de Angola (Lisbon,
2009); Patrick Chabal and Nuno Vidal (eds), Angola: the Weight of History (London, 2007).
Gerald Bender, Angola under the Portuguese: The Myth and the Reality (Berkeley, 1978).
Jeremy Robert Ball, '"The Colossal Lie": The Sociedade Agrícola do Cassequel and
Portuguese Colonial Labor Policy in Angola, 1899-1977', PhD thesis, University of
California, Los Angeles, 2003 (Ball later on did many more interviews, working with the
Angolan National Archives); Todd Cleveland, 'Rock Solid: African Laborers on the
Diamond Mines of the Companhia de Diamantes de Angola (Diamang), 1917-1975', PhD
thesis, University of Minnesota, 2008; Ana Paula Tavares, 'Memória e História: Estudo
sobre as Sociedades Lunda e Cokwe em Angola', PhD thesis, Universidade Nova de Lisboa,
See Cláudia Castelo, Passagens para a África Portuguesa: O Povoamento de Angola e
Moçambique com Naturais da Metrópole (c. 1920-1974) (Porto, 2007); Fernando Tavares
Pimenta, Brancos de Angola: Autonomismo e Nacionalismo (1900-1961) (Coimbra, 2005);
idem, Angola, os Brancos e a Independência (Porto, 2008).
her interpretations and conclusions, especially those in her book Contested Power. 28
Péclard's analysis of Protestant missions is much richer and two chapters of his
unpublished thesis are important to clarify the relationship between these missions
and the urban environment, revealing the contradictions in the missionaries'
relationship with their Angolan faithful. He considers in detail questions of social
mobility, subjective transformation and expectations of the Protestants, although he
recognizes the difficulties in hearing Angolan voices in the missionary sources.29
The issue of modernity inevitably emerges from this social history of Huambo,
whether I was considering agriculture, Christianization, new occupations or elites,
although I often avoided the term because of its problematic definitions.30 At a
certain point in writing this thesis I had to decide between investing most of my time
in theoretical discussions of every 'big word' (modernity, colonialism, assimilation,
conversion, identity) and applying my energy to empirical research, providing
evidence to justify my conclusions and my occasional diversion from received
wisdom on colonial Angola. I decided that my main contribution should be the latter;
that is, to provide evidence for a specific historical process, the creation and
development of the city of Huambo, from which new interpretations, comparisons
and questions will hopefully arise. Moreover, it seemed obvious that studies of
particular regions of the Portuguese colonial empire were in need, especially
empirical research using the almost unexplored resources of the Angolan archives for
the twentieth century. A number of factors, such as the rise of Salazar's Estado Novo,
its implacable opposition to decolonization and the absence of open protest after the
Linda M. Heywood, Contested Power in Angola, 1840s to the Present (Rochester, 2000).
Didier Péclard, 'Etat colonial, missions chrétiennes et nationalisme en Angola, 19201975 : Aux racines sociales de l'UNITA', PhD thesis, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris,
2005, esp. chapters 3 and 4.
See Cooper, Colonialism, 113-49; Jan-Georg Deutsch, Peter Probst and Heike Schmidt,
'Introduction: Cherished visions and entangled meanings', in African Modernities:
Entangled Meanings in Current Debate (Portsmouth and Oxford, 2002), 1-17; Susan
Friedman, 'Definitional excursions: The meanings of Modern/Modernity/Modernism’,
Modernism/modernity, 3 (2001), 493-513.
Second World War, reinforced the image of a sui generis Portuguese colonialism,
whether to emphasize supposed racial harmony on the one hand or the harsh
exploitation of Africans on the other. At a time when colonialism in the French and
British colonies was getting a 'developmental' face and dealing with independence
prospects, the Portuguese colonies were examples of economic and political
backwardness. However, as this work attempts to demonstrate, until the 1940s
Portuguese policies were not distant from their colonial rivals.
This research on Huambo's urban history does not set out to deal with all the
complexities of city life. It is about social change, focusing mainly on people
excluded from citizenship by colonial laws and yet contributing in meaningful ways
to the economic and social life of the city, and changing their own lives in the
process. Despite detailed discussion in the chapters that follow of the shifting limits
of urban space in Huambo, whether following the criteria of town planners or the
changing perceptions of 'urban' on the part of different dwellers, it is necessary to
define here what ‘urban’ means in this work.31 Historically, what makes a city a city
is not its architecture or the use of certain technologies, but the diversity and density
of human activity and relations, as well as the function of that particular place in the
region it serves and often commands.32 'Urbanites' are not only those living in the
urbanized central neighbourhoods, but all the people who contribute to making towns
what they are, whether an economic centre, a political centre, a religious centre, an
educational centre or, as in the case of Huambo, all of these. People spending most of
their working hours and spare time in town or in urban-related activities become
urban even if they were 'rural' when they first arrived there. Their way of life, from
occupation to leisure time or household composition may vary greatly, they may be
more or less close to their rural kin, but those who stayed became townspeople – a
Cf. Sandra Roque, 'Ambitions of Cidade: War-Displacement and Concepts of the Urban
Among Bairro Residents in Benguela, Angola', PhD thesis, University of Cape Town, 2009.
See Parker, Making the Town, xx-xxi; Péclard, 'État Colonial', 236-7.
change often realised only while paying a visit to their home village. In Huambo, as
we will see, many aspects of material life (housing, cooking, water carrying or
sanitation) were for the majority of its inhabitants not so distinct from the rural
world. But the scale and concentration of events and people, the exposure to
European ways of life and the opportunities to move between jobs were undeniably
characteristics of the urban experience. Clothes, hair styling, naming, leisure
activities: all were directed to making the distinction visible.
So, why the title 'in the town and out of town', if all the population both inside
and outside Huambo's formal limits can be considered as part of the city's human
fabric? The answer is given in those sections where I discuss how the colonial
system kept most of the urban black population out of town, in residential terms and,
more decisively, out of the citizenship rights which would allow their upward social
mobility and their move from the periphery to the centre. That is, while economic
and social change created a new urban environment with its own opportunities,
expectations and greater influence of European material culture and Christianity,
Portuguese colonial rule assured that such transformation would not have its natural
outcome: 'natives' moving up the social ladder and displacing European settlers from
their position of overall economic and political privilege. It should also be noted that
not all urban Angolans lived in Angola and although Léopoldville/Kinshasa is the
biggest example, many other cities in central and southern Africa had temporary or
permanent Angolan diasporas.33 That fact influenced comparisons and expectations
about urban life among those who travelled, migrated or simply received
correspondence from their kin and friends. Discussions on social change related to
the urban environment need to take into account those experiences outside the limits
The most urbanized and industrialized region of central Africa, the Katanga province of
the Belgian Congo and the adjacent Northern Rhodesian Copperbelt, was connected to
central Angola by the Benguela railway.
of each colony. In the absence of studies on Angolan migrant workers or diasporas,
this question could not be fully treated but its importance has to be acknowledged.
Periodization, methodology and sources
Apart from Chapter 1 on the historical background of the central highlands of
Angola, this study covers roughly sixty years, from the conquest in 1902 of Wambu,
the small Umbundu kingdom where the city of Huambo was founded in 1912, to
1960. The ongoing story of Huambo in the final phase of colonial rule in Angola
from 1961 to 1975 lies beyond the scope of the thesis, for a number of reasons. First,
the uprisings of 1961 in northern Angola caused important changes in Portuguese
colonial doctrine and policies, namely the end of the Native Statute and related
legislation on labour and taxation. That removed legal restrictions on the upward
social mobility of those classified as 'natives', and one indication of that in Huambo
was the extraordinary influx of their children into secondary schools. Second, a boost
in industrialization, as part of the Portuguese strategy to retain control of Angola,
opened new work opportunities and Huambo became, after the capital Luanda, the
second industrial pole in the colony. During the period studied here, in contrast, the
city’s economy was dominated by agriculture and trade. Last but not the least, the
violent challenge to the colonial state with the rise of the national liberation struggle
created a totally different set of expectations about the future.
Much of the historical analysis of this work has been forged in close dialogue
with sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, agronomists and geographers,
reinforcing my conviction that interdisciplinary research is fundamental to
understanding the evolution of African urbanism. It was also striking to discover the
extent to which historical fields proudly stay apart from each other, whether
'economic history' from 'cultural history' or 'imperial history' looking from a distance
at 'African history', and vice-versa. So, which historical field should someone
studying urbanization, social change and colonial rule in central Angola belong to?
Urban social change was not just 'economic' or 'cultural' or 'religious' or 'political'.
'Colonial rule' was a complex and ever-changing mixture of ideology, doctrine,
policy, and everyday practices. Moreover, the only way to establish any historical
specificity (of colonial rule, of urbanization or of Christianization, say) is to compare
what you are studying with what happened elsewhere. This work has probably
suffered from my ambition to look in so many directions before accepting my own
limitations and the constraints of a thesis. But my own shortcomings are no reason to
reject the importance of historians going beyond borders, both of colonial
geographies and of academic disciplines.
I preferred sometimes to re-analyze primary sources rather than simply relying
on other scholars publications. This does not necessarily imply a questioning of their
work, yet I wished to avoid a certain circularity of evidence in a milieu, Angolan
history, where authors are just a few. If my findings confirm earlier analyses, that is
good because it adds further weight and evidence to this literature; if my findings
diverge from theirs, that is good because it introduces some 'noise' in otherwise
unchallenged assumptions. Independent research and source diversification are
essential to test, either validating or not, conclusions based in other case studies or in
another set of sources.
The main sources for this work were archival documents kept in Angola,
Portugal, France and Britain. Protestant missionary archives in the United States and
Canada, also very important to central Angola's history, were not consulted, and not
only for practical reasons. Those archives have previously been explored by
Heywood and Péclard and were much less important in the urban context of
Huambo. The Angolan National Archive (ANA) in Luanda, especially its bound
papers (Códices) and loose papers (Avulsos), but also its folders (Pastas), was the
main archive for this research, allowing me to get close to the everyday functioning
of the colonial state and to see evidence of the impact on Huambo and its hinterland
of colonial policies and decrees. Even if the ruled are often only dimly perceived –
and often misperceived – in these documents, they are still of enormous importance
if we want to study the history of Angola rather than the history of the Portuguese
empire. Due to the bureaucratic and centralizing characteristics of the Portuguese
state (both in the colonies and at home), papers were produced and kept about almost
every aspect of life which could be of interest for the control of Portuguese subjects.
What was often a nightmare for citizens or 'natives' became a blessing for historians.
The local press represents another source, although it was only in 1930 that
Huambo got its own newspaper and it was explicitly 'o jornal do colono', directed to
the interests of white settlers, with only an occasional and critical glimpse of the
black population in town. Before 1930, the Benguela newspapers are of interest,
supposedly representing regional interests, that is, that of traders on the central
plateau. Again, these sources are useful for studying the political and ideological
cleavages among the Portuguese in Angola but almost useless for the social history
of the colonized.
Outside Angola, the main archives of the Holy Ghost Mission in Paris were
essential for this study (their archives in Lisbon are also of interest but the Paris
archives hold much more material). As the text will show, the Holy Ghost
missionaries were dominant in the field and their reports, letters, photographs and
publications are indispensable for the history of Huambo. However, as expected,
many aspects of people's lives were not touched in those documents.
In Portugal, the Arquivo Histórico Militar (AHM), the main military archive,
was precious and not only for the period of the conquest, since many later documents
from civilian authorities found their way into its collection. Of great help also was
the Instituto Português de Ajuda ao Desenvolvimento (IPAD) to where some papers
from the former Ministry of Overseas Affairs were transferred. The bulk of
documentation of that Ministry, however, is in Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino
(AHU), whose importance is widely recognized.
Anthropological literature is an important complement to any historical
research in the region, but with a few caveats. Any study of Huambo deals with
people now commonly called Ovimbundu, but this is not a study of 'the urban
Ovimbundu' for two major reasons: Ovimbundu had different urban experiences in
other Angolan cities (Lobito, Luanda and Moçâmedes/Namibe) and beyond Angolan
frontiers; and the African population of Huambo, namely that under the Native
Statute which is the main focus of this study, was not all Ovimbundu. Moreover,
their legal status as 'natives' was more relevant in shaping social life, as we will see,
than their ethno-linguistic affiliation. However, since the city was founded in the old
Umbundu kingdom of Wambu and Ovimbundu people of many origins remained the
overwhelmingly majority of Huambo's population, I hope this study contributes to a
better understanding of the Ovimbundu's diverse and rich history. Further, little if
any anthropological research has been carried out in a systematic way among the
Ovimbundu in the last fifty years, a period when history and anthropology in Africa
have deeply changed in their methods and resources. Gladwyn M. Childs, despite
being out of date in some historical information, remains the standard
anthropological reference. His 1949 book was the basis for Merran McCulloch's later
work which, despite some minor problems, is the best ethnographic synthesis
available.34 Other authors are useful for particular subjects and areas but even when
Merran McCulloch, The Ovimbundu of Angola (London, 1952).
the title mentions 'the Ovimbundu' they refer to a particular area or sub-group.35
Without scientific ambitions, the description of some Va-wambu customs by
Brandão published in several numbers of the government journal Mensário
Administrativo, is useful and acknowledges his main oral sources.36
As for oral sources, I have drawn on a few formal interviews, some recorded
long ago. In this work, oral testimony is treated as any other source and used to
cross-check other information, but it is evident that the social history of Huambo or
any other Angolan city would be much more interesting and valuable with a more
systematic use of oral history.
Organization of chapters
The thesis is largely organized in a chronological manner, since the text had to
provide a broad temporal framework for the matters discussed. But each chapter also
focus on a specific theme or themes and the one about Christianization most clearly
transcends chronological barriers. Chapter 1 seeks to provide an overview of the
'precolonial' history of what would become the central highlands of Angola, with a
focus on historical processes important either for situating the region in a broader
regional history (such as the rise of the Imbangala and the slave trade) or because
their impact was still felt in Huambo in the twentieth century (such as the longdistance caravan trade and the military conquest).
Chapter 2 examines the colonial conquest of the region and the foundation of
the city of Huambo in 1912 as part of a project of white settlement. Simultaneously,
the inauguration of the town's railway station signalled the important influence of the
Edwards, The Ovimbundu; A. Mesquitela Lima, Os Kyaka de Angola: História, Parentesco,
Organização Política e Territorial, 3 vols. (Lisbon, 1988-1991); Wilfrid D. Hambly, The
Ovimbundu of Angola (Chicago, 1934).
Aníbal dos Santos Brandão, 'Usos e costumes dos indígenas Váuambo', Mensário
Administrativo, 24-25 (1949), 43-6; 26-27 (1949), 89-91; 28 (1949), 25-9; 31-32 (1950) 217; 61-62 (1952) 13-16; 63-64 (1952), 35-45.
Benguela Railways Company, a role confirmed in years to come. The chapter
scrutinizes the ways in which conquered African subjects began officially to be
designated as 'natives', a process which marked the end of the old Portuguese
colonial doctrine of 'assimilation'. Chapter 3 then traces the first thirty years of
Huambo's history. Rather that developing along the lines set out in a series of grand
urban plans, the city remained in many ways embedded in its surrounding rural
environment. Urban regulations attempted with only limited success to maintain a
distinct frontier between the city and its growing peri-urban neighbourhoods.
Particular attention is given to old and new occupations, as indicators of urbanrelated social and economic change. The chapter also discusses the Native Statute
which completed the process of making 'natives' out of subjugated people.
Chapter 4 discusses a major factor of social change in colonial Huambo and its
hinterland: Christianity, which spread quickly and reshaped many aspects of life.
After the 1940 Concordat between Portugal and the Catholic Church, the latter
gained clear advantage over its Protestant rivals. The creation of a Diocese
transformed Huambo into the epicentre of an African Catholic network of catechists,
school teachers, seminarians, priests and nuns, the importance of which has been
overlooked in an established literature that has focused more on rival Protestant
missions. A Catholic Mission established on the city's periphery to serve the 'natives'
confirmed the acceptance by the Church that urbanization was irreversible. Finally,
Chapter 5 discusses some of the dead-ends generated in the 1950s by the colonial
situation and Portugal's refusal to make more than cosmetic changes to its policies.
Resentment mounted towards the Native Statute as a barrier to social mobility and
towards judicial abuses against 'natives', but there was no space for openly contesting
the system. That general situation was felt in Huambo, which was growing faster
than before with both black and white immigration. The request for Portuguese
citizenship as a way out from the constraints of the Native Statute is also discussed,
based on archival evidence.
This work involved more than intellectual endeavour. I grew up in Huambo
and spent decisive years of my life in the city, both before and after Angola's
independence. Decades of living in Luanda has not altered my sense of belonging to
Huambo. Its urban decay during the ruinous civil war years revealed to me the
fragility of city life: how quickly buildings deteriorate and once-thriving
neighbourhoods become fragmented. Yet the decades of decay also demonstrated
how resilient urbanites can be. These people are the city, nowadays as in the old days
evoked in the following chapters.
The city of Huambo lies roughly at the centre of the present-day Huambo Province
of Angola, which covers a great part of the country's central highlands or 'central
plateau' (see map 1). This well-irrigated plateau and its adjoining zones have for
centuries been a crossroads of population movements and trade routes, deeply
affected by the Atlantic slave trade well before becoming part of the Portuguese
colony. Most of Angola covers the north-western part of the great African plateau
south of the equator, where savannas alternate with woodlands and denser forests
along rivers beds. Population movements and communication were easier in vast
areas south of the equatorial forest than they were between the plateau and the
narrow, often arid, coastal plains. However, decisive aspects of the area's history in
the last four hundred years were shaped by developments in the Atlantic economy.
This also 'shaped' our telling of the region's history, since historical sources are
almost totally related to (and produced after) the involvement with the Atlantic trade
and politics.
Both the slave trade and Portuguese commercial influence date from the late
sixteenth century, expanding after a new Portuguese trade outpost, São Filipe de
Benguela, was founded in 1617 in a bay already known to slave trading vessels. The
slave and ivory trades would connect central Angola not only with the Atlantic but
with societies deep in central Africa, such as Kazembe and Lunda and its tributaries,
in these joining East Africa commercial networks. Although that is out of the scope
of this study, such connections should be kept in mind to counteract the Atlanticcentred view of the region only as 'the Benguela hinterland'. Moreover, in the
twentieth century, many of those trade routes were used again by workers and traders
trying to make a living in Angola's neighbouring colonies.
By the time the Berlin Conference (1884-1885) defined the northern Angolan
frontier on the lower Congo, the eastern-most Portuguese settlement in southern
Angola was the fortress and military prison (presídio) of Caconda, established on the
south-western edge of the plateau in 1769. The Portuguese did try a further military
invasion of the highlands in 1776 and won a temporary victory. But the war
disrupted the slave trade without bringing enough compensation in war captives, so
they went back to the established commercial partnership with local kingdoms.
Despite nominal inclusion of a vast hinterland territory in the 'Benguela
Province' or 'Reino de Benguela' and the occasional appointment of a capitão-mor
('captain major') to represent Portuguese interests in Mbalundu, Viye and Wambu,
these and the other African states kept their independence. The military advances in
the area resumed only in 1890 and the conquest was completed in 1904. This
chapter, after a brief geographical characterization of the region, highlights key
aspects of its history until the Portuguese conquest, based on the available literature,
including published collections of primary sources and nineteenth-century
documents from the Angolan National Archives.
The place and the people
Attempts to impose on the hinterland of Benguela the kind of rule the Portuguese
managed to establish north of the Kwanza River after one hundred years of wars
(1575-1671) were discouraged not only by the warlords that dominated a great part
of the plateau but also by the geography of the territory.1 The transition from sea
level to the highlands is more abrupt than in the north and the rivers Longa and Kuvo
Arriving in the Kongo kingdom in 1483, the Portuguese did not attempt any territorial
conquest until the foundation of Luanda in 1575, when the slave trade was already
developing. They destroyed the Ndongo kingdom (ruled by the Ngola) only in 1671.
(or Keve) cease to be navigable near the coast. There is nothing there similar to the
Kwanza river, which allowed the Portuguese to navigate upstream into the interior.2
Without boats to carry men, bulky supplies and war material to the hinterland, and
without fortresses by the riverside, Portuguese troops in the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries were left with almost no advantages over local African warriors.
The traders' route reaching the plateau from the southern bank of the Kwanza
demanded great efforts of troops and porters, always at the risk of facing enemy
forces in the Libolo area before reaching the higher country. The route from
Benguela southeast to Caconda, before going northeast to Mbalundu was no easier.
Although earlier contacts and trade existed with Portuguese outposts on the
Kwanza river, most of the written evidence on the plateau was obtained later from
Benguela. The highlands then were mapped as part of an ill defined Planalto de
Benguela ('Benguela Plateau') or Planalto de Caconda, stretching from Caconda to
'lands not well known' in the east.3 Later on it was also named Planalto do Bié ('Bié
Plateau'), after the Viye kingdom.
The main physical features of the region have played an important role in its
history. The altitude of the plateau ranges roughly between 1,500 metres and 1,800
metres above sea level, with a few places below or above those limits and several
isolated high rocky outcrops (inselbergs). Those inselbergs were often reinforced
with stone walls closing the empty spaces between the rocks and leaving a
labyrinthic access, and some were the centre of royal capitals.4 Of special interest to
Wambu are Nganda and Kawe, where traditions locate the first capital of the
See Ilídio Amaral, O Rio Cuanza (Angola), da Barra a Cambambe: Reconstituição de
Aspectos Geográficos e Acontecimentos Históricos dos Séculos XVI e XVII (Lisbon, 2000).
Mappa hidro-geographico [by] Tenente Coronel Luiz Candido Cordeiro Pinheiro Furtado
(1791), in António de Oliveira Cadornega, História Geral das Guerras Angolanas (1680)
(Lisbon, 1972). It indicates Bailundo, Ambo [i. e. Huambo], Quipeio, Sambos, Bihé, etc.
Nineteenth-century commercial developments apparently made stone walls less important,
but the olombala (sing. ombala) or capitals still had strong defensive fences around them
and hidden escape exits.
kingdom, Samisasa, the last independent capital, near which the Portuguese built a
fortress after the 1902 campaign, and Kandumbu, where a battle during that
campaign took place.
To the east, the plateau slopes down gently to the vast plains of eastern Angola
and beyond. But to the west it rises into the so-called 'marginal mountain' ridge,
exceeding sometimes 2,000 metres, before abruptly going down and ending in a dry
coastal strip that becomes narrower to the south.5 About 50 kilometres east of the city
of Huambo several main rivers have their source, running to west, north and south:
the Keve, the Kutatu, the Kunene and the Kubango (Okavango) whose waters
disappear in the Kalahari desert. These and many smaller rivers make the zone
relatively well watered the year round.
The tropical climate is moderated by the altitude, with annual average
temperatures below 20ºC and annual variations normally below 10ºC. The highest
temperatures occur normally in September and October and the lowest ones in June
and July, during the dry season which goes, with small variations, from May to
September. Average annual rainfall is above 1,250 mm and rainfall is heaviest in
November-December and March. A short dry season may occur in January or
February. This annual cycle was important not only for farming but also for
travelling and warfare (normally undertaken in the dry season), two important
activities associated with economic and political power on the plateau.
Except for some limited areas, soils are poor in this part of Africa (the Kalahari
is not far away) and the deforestation that accompanied agricultural expansion,
associated with the strong rainfall, tended to cause the rapid disappearance of the thin
layer of fertile soil. But it was possible to feed a growing number of people using the
traditional methods of extensive agriculture that allowed the more fragile lands to
Carta Geral dos Solos de Angola, II, Distrito do Huambo (Lisbon, 1961), 5-6, in Fernando
Diogo da Silva, O Huambo: Mão-de-obra Rural no Mercado de Trabalho de Angola
(Luanda, 1970), 37-38.
regenerate through long fallow periods (twenty years or more). Hunting was
important and leaves, roots, fruits, insects and small animals collected in the forests
and woodlands also provided part of the diet. It is not difficult to imagine why this
well-watered zone has attracted different peoples from ancient times and became the
most densely populated zone in colonial Angola. Despite droughts and plagues of
locusts that temporarily created subsistence crises and their usual retinue of disease,
social instability and wars, the central plateau was, for centuries, a land of
immigration, whether because of its natural advantages or political changes and
upheavals in other regions.6
Cadornega's seventeenth-century account of the peoples and kingdoms south of
the Kwanza (compiled from second-hand information) mentions the existence of
'provinces' (apparently major areas named after their best known peoples) divided
among different rulers or 'sovas' that he distinguishes from the 'jagas'. It is
interesting to note that 'Huambo' is listed as a sova in the 'Province of the Sumbis'
(the Va-Sumbi were in the area south of the river Keve near the present-day town of
Sumbe, once Novo Redondo) and not in the 'province of the Quimbundos' where
Cadornega includes some of the groups later known in the colonial ethnography as
Nyaneka. No Mbalundu sova is listed in either of these 'provinces'.7
Ovimbundu or Vimbundu (sing. Ocimbundu) is today the common name for
peoples speaking the Umbundu language, who stretch widely over central Angola
and who also came to populate other zones, including cities in the north (Luanda)
and the south (Lubango and Namibe). Calculations and projections (but neither
fieldwork nor a proper census) suggest that they today represent almost 40 percent of
Angolan people. However, Umbundu language and culture had a hegemonic role in
See Joseph C. Miller 'The significance of drought, disease and famine in the agriculturally
marginal zones of West-central Africa', JAH, 23 (1982), 17-61.
Cadornega, História Geral, III, 231-233, 249-250. Also Gladwyn M. Childs, 'The peoples
of Angola in the seventeenth century according to Cadornega', JAH, 1 (1960), 271-279.
different parts of central and southern Angola and the fact that someone spoke
Umbundu as their first language in the 1960 or the 1970 census (the last to be
conducted) did not necessarily mean that he or she had Ovimbundu parents or had
been raised according to an 'Umbundu culture'.8 Population censuses were made
without anthropological research and classifications were based on language, so data
have to be handled carefully.
For the historical period covered by written sources, however, it can be
assumed that the majority of the people of the central plateau were Umbundu
speakers, whether or not their immediate or remote ancestors were from other
linguistic groups. Yet neither in foreign sources nor among the peoples themselves
was the name 'Ovimbundu' in use before the end of the nineteenth century to define
their ethnic let alone their political identities. Local peoples rather identified
themselves by referring to known polities, adding the Bantu 'Va' prefix: Va-Wambu,
Va-Mbalundu, Va-Viye, Va-Sambu. For these peoples, the Portuguese used the
terms Huambos, Bailundos, Bienos and Sambos. Some of them also became known
collectively as the Va-Nano (literally 'those from the highlands'), by contrast with
people they called Va-Mbwelo 'those from the lowlands' and whose cattle and people
they used to raid.9 Long-distance trade and an association with foreign goods and
European habits gave some Umbundu-speaking groups the name of Vimbali (sing.
ocimbali) among many eastern neighbours.10 Sometimes a group of traders in distant
lands became known by the name or political title of their king: so the Viye traders,
for instance, were known as 'Kangombe' in some places.
In the late 1940s, Childs noted the 'widespread use of Umbundu' by neighbours
(considered non-Ovimbundu) such as Va-Nganda and Va-Hanya. Childs, Umbundu Kinship
and Character (Oxford, 1949), 11.
See Ernesto Lecomte, 'No Cubango: Communicação à Sociedade de Geographia de
Lisboa, em 3 de Junho de 1889', Boletim da Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa, 8ª Série
(1889), 347. He was aware of how peoples' names depended on who was naming who.
In Portuguese 'quimbares', a word that developped many different meanings in colonial
Angola. Here vimbali meant broadly those who adopted some of the ways of the European,
or had close trading relationships with them.
Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century documents used the name 'Quimbundos'
for several peoples south of the Kwanza, but still distinct from the Imbangala: 'These
are they of the uplands, who are divided into two groups, one called "Quimbundos"
(those do not eat human flesh); the others are called "Quimbangalas", who eat it, and
when they make their sacrifice, which all attend, all eat the "Macongo"'.11 This
mention of cannibalism among the Imbangala is related to the 'okulia ekongo' ('to eat
the hunter'), a ceremony of ritual cannibalism associated to the enthronement of
important chiefs (olosoma, sing. soma) on the plateau that is also mentioned in much
later sources and also by elder people in the region today.12
Even more confusing for historians is the fact that until the end of the
nineteenth century the general term 'Quimbundos' or 'Mbundos' named only the
Umbundu-speaking peoples and not their northern Kimbundu-speaking neighbours.
The latter were called the 'Ambundos' (in Kimbundu, 'Akwambundu'). In the
Portuguese ethnographic literature and in the common terminology of twentiethcentury Angola, however, the language took the place of the 'ethnic' group's name:
'quimbundos' (Kimbundu), 'umbundos' (Umbundu), 'quicongos' (Kikongo), etc. The
current international use of Mbundu and Ovimbundu to distinguish between
Kimbundu-speakers and Umbundu-speakers, respectively, has not been enough to
prevent some mistakes among researchers and librarians.
The remote past
Hunters, farmers, fishermen and herders, using iron implements and weapons,
inhabited the plateau for many centuries before the first written information about
Paulo M. P. Lacerda, 'Noticia da Cidade de S. Filipe de Benguella, e dos costumes dos
gentios habitantes daquelle sertão (1797)', Annaes Maritimos e Coloniaes, 5ª série (parte não
official) (1845), 488.
See Ladislaus Magyar, Reisen in Süd-Afrika in den Jahren 1849 bis 1857, (Pest & Leipzig,
1859), 273-275; Childs, Umbundu Kinship, 187. Interview with Faustino Nunes Muteka,
Luanda, 16 February 1991.
them was produced at the end of the sixteenth century. As elsewhere in central
Africa, the area was occupied by peoples speaking Bantu languages who had
expelled or merged with former inhabitants.13 However, about their political life,
ethnic integration or disintegration, and linguistic and cultural transformation before
that period, we can only speculate. Aspects of material and spiritual culture and oral
traditions, here mostly collected after decades of colonial rule and Christian
influence, are of limited help in establishing the economic, political and social
developments of distant centuries. 'Myths of origin' are important and can provide
keys to the history of related societies, but they often tell more about the time and
context in which they were produced or told than about the remote past.14
There is, however, physical evidence of an ancient history that still awaits
archaeological research. Fortifications and megalithic constructions can be found
throughout much of Angola and they are not an exclusive feature of the central
plateau. In the present state of Angolan archaeology, we are very much reduced to
superficial observation. The southern part of the plateau shares with regions further
south some impressive sites, with vestiges of kilometres of protective stone walls
built of loose stones, with a technique similar to that used in Great Zimbabwe. Some
of them, like Feti and Osi, used the confluence of two rivers to create an effective
defensive triangle. Inside those areas there were other stone constructions, pyramidal
or cylindrical. There is plenty of evidence of ironworking and agriculture in and
around those sites. Feti, Osi and Ileu have been described but not fully investigated.15
For a recent reappraisal of the 'Bantu expansion', see David Schoenbrun and Christopher
Ehret, 'Representing the Bantu expansions: What's at stake?', International Journal of
African Historical Studies, 34, 1 (2001), 1-42.
For the relationship between oral traditions and history, centered on Angola, see Joseph
Miller, 'Tradição oral e história: uma agenda para Angola', in Construindo o Passado
Angolano: as Fontes e a sua Interpretação (Lisbon, 2000), 371-412; John Thornton,
'Documentos escritos e tradição oral num reino alfabetizado: tradições orais escritas no
Congo, 1580-1910', in idem, 445-465.
See António de Almeida e Camarate França, 'Recintos muralhados de Angola' in Estudos
sobre a Pré-história do Ultramar Português (Lisbon, 1960); Adriano V. Rodrigues,
Feti has received special attention because some Ovimbundu traditions identify
it as the place of 'the first man', who took his three wives out of the reeds in a lagoon
of the Kunene River, making them the mothers of the Ovimbundu and neighbouring
peoples.16 A late nineteenth-century visitor was impressed by the place and
mentioned also this 'origins of mankind' tradition.17 The most interesting part of the
site was described, carelessly excavated and partially destroyed by a teacher trying to
find the mythical gold mines in the region in the 1950's.18 Instead of gold he found
some four hundred old hoe blades (similar to the ones produced in parts of Angola
until the twentieth century and distinct from European ones) and other iron
artefacts.19 Those findings and the extension of the protected zone suggest the
development of agriculture and iron working in a context of centralized power.20 It
has also become the basis for scholarly speculation about who first built that site and
the uses it had for successive peoples.21
Gladwyn Childs, to whom we owe the most comprehensive account of
Ovimbundu oral traditions, visited Feti many years after writing his important
Umbundu Kinship and Character (1949). He collected a few samples of charcoal and
'Construções bantas de pedra em Angola', Boletim do Instituto de Investigação Cientifica de
Angola (IICA), 5, 2 (1968), 169-189; Fernando Batalha, Reconhecimento da Antiga Estação
Arqueológica de Féti situada na Confluência do Rio Cunhamgâmua com o Rio Cunene, no
Distrito do Huambo (Luanda, 1969). A good synthesis of all archaeological work in Angola
until 1975 is Carlos Ervedosa, Arqueologia Angolana (Lisbon, 1980). See especially 210220 and 404-413.
See Gladwyn M. Childs, 'The Chronology of the Ovimbundu Kingdoms', JAH, 11, 2
(1970), 367-79.
Father Lecomte to Dr. Fernando Pedroso, 15 June 1893, in António Brásio, Spiritana
Monumenta Historica, Series Africana, Angola, IV (1890-1903) (Louvain, 1970), 183-186.
Júlio Diamantino de Moura, 'Uma história entre lendas', Boletim do Instituto de Angola,
10 (1957), 57-90; largely quoted and sketches reproduced in Ervedosa, Arqueologia, 210220.
Cf. Frank W. Read, 'Iron-smelting and native blacksmithing in Ondulu Country, Southeast Angola', Journal of the African Society, London/New York, vol. II, V (1902-1903), 4449.
Discussion of state formation versus kin-based institutions is beyond the scope of this
study. See Joseph C. Miller, Kings and Kinsmen: Early Mbundu States in Angola (Oxford,
Stories or 'memories' of gold mines, disappeared Catholic missions and hidden treasures
are also reported by different authors.
pottery and sent them to Yale (USA) where charcoals were dated by radiocarbon
analysis to A.D. 710 and A.D. 1250. Those dates 'were not out of line with C14 dates
for Iron Age sites in Rhodesia and South Africa', but 'full significance of the Feti la
Choya finds in relation to other sites cannot be appraised without study of the
pottery, now in the US'.22 However, the potsherds were useless because they were
too small and too few. Other samples taken in 1964 were lost, as Childs tells in his
1970 article.23 Further local research will be extremely difficult since in the 1970's a
dam was built in the area. Based on such scanty evidence, it seems impossible to tell
when, by whom and why the walls, pyramid and hoes were produced.
Yet, Jan Vansina has recently speculated that Wambu and Ngalange may have
been the heirs of a state from the thirteenth century, the heyday of which was 'during
the fourteenth, fifteenth, and perhaps early sixteenth centuries'.24 Feti was probably
its capital. Vansina's book is essential to any discussion of central Angola's remote
past. But I would use his own caveat on archaeological data and historical
reconstruction: 'This task requires two conditions: that there be enough evidence for
a coherent reconstruction, and that the general rules of evidence be applied to that
record'.25 Vansina, despite noting the insufficient archaeological basis and the need
for comparison with similar sites, goes ahead and states that 'one may date the first
elaboration on an original large-scale structure capped by a central court with a king
at its apex to the time of Feti and to the central and southeastern parts of the planalto
in general'.26
Minze Stuiver, Edward S. Deevey Jr. and Irving Rouse, 'Yale natural radiocarbon
measurements VIII', Radiocarbon, 5 (1963), 337-338 (from They
had been informed that the destroyed pyramid was the 'traditional burial place of Choya,
legendary primal queen of the Ovimbundu'.
Childs, 'Chronology', 241-2.
Jan Vansina, How Societies are Born: Governance in West Central Africa before 1600
(London, 2004), 173-4.
Jan Vansina, 'Historians, are archeologists your siblings?', History in Africa, 22 (1995),
Vansina, How Societies are Born, 182.
But conceding that 'the kings lists recorded from oral tradition by Childs and
Keiling cite no rulers earlier than the eighteenth century', Vansina accepts that most
political dynasties of Ovimbundu kingdoms had different origins. 'Thus Ngalangi
and Wambu, the heirs of Feti, were responsible only for a small portion of the later
kingdoms on the planalto. For that reason alone it would be unwise to think that the
"typical Ovimbundu kingdom" was a legacy of Feti'. As he stresses, social
organization always undergoes change, so 'a "typical kingdom" can at best be a
snapshot of a moment in time'. Anyway, 'the "typical Ovimbundu kingdom" of the
late nineteenth century is mainly a product of eighteenth and nineteenth century
developments, when the realms of Bailundu and Viye reached their apogee'.27
Feti is undeniably of major importance to the study of ancient societies in
Angola but the current state of research can not tell who was living there in the
thirteenth century, let alone in the eighth century. The builders of those walls could
be the ancestors of the present-day Ovimbundu, and/or of the Nkumbi, of the
Nyaneka or of the so-called Ngangela. Those peoples and their past polities are even
less known than the Ovimbundu and historical sources on them are scarcer, since
they have received much less attention from traders, missionaries, officials and
scholars. The very traditions that identify 'Feti' with origins (okufetika means 'to
begin') do so for different peoples and indeed for all the human race, not only 'the
There has been no systematic comparative work on linguistic data, but there is
a consensus that the modern Umbundu language is related to those to the south and
east and also close to Kimbundu to the north. The main collected oral traditions
mention the Nganda, the Ngangela and the Humbi, most of them cattle herders, as
the ones who 'were there before' and had been 'defeated' by the ancestors of
Ibid, 181-2.
Ovimbundu rulers. The Wambu traditions go a step further: the Nganda not only
were the former occupants but they also provided the kings' lineage after the 'Jaga'
Wambu Kalunga was 'killed' because of his terrible actions, namely cannibalism.28
However, collected Wambu traditions are not consistent and a single author collected
different versions.29 They can be roughly summarized as follows. The Va-Nganda
(whose known descendants live now to the west) were the earliest inhabitants and the
rocks of Nganda and Kawe, north of Kahala, kept the names of their first king and
queen. The supposed grave of Wambu Kalunga is still near Kawe. This 'Jaga' came
to the region from the north-west with other companions, hunting elephants. He took
the kingdom from the local lineage but soon he was behaving badly, 'eating' corpses
and even his subjects. It is tempting to relate this to the slave trade, as the use of the
language of 'eating' or consumption to describe enslavement is widely recorded
throughout the Angolan region. Some of the dignitaries found a way (the traditions
diverge on the details) to get rid of him and so the power went back to the old
lineages or to another 'foreign' figure, since it is not clear which group his kesongo or
commander-in-chief belonged to. Long before those events, so it is told, the kingdom
was founded by a son of Feti, the first man that got his spouses from the Kunene
river in Ngalange south of Wambu. His name was Ngola Ciluanji and he did not stay
in Wambu but went north of the Kwanza to found the Ngola kingdom. This is
difficult to square with the better known story of the northern title Ngola Kiluanji. It
seems that at some point in the past not only the powerful Ngola Kiluanji had to be
integrated in the genealogy of Feti but also that someone wanted the tradition to
See G. M. Childs, 'The kingdom of Wambu (Huambo): A tentative chronology', JAH, 3
(1964), 367-379; idem, 'Chronology'. Mesquitela Lima, working in the early 1970s among
the Ciyaka, published eleven versions of the Ciyaka origins (including some versions
written by local people), almost all related to Wambu. See Augusto Mesquitela Lima, Os
Kyaka de Angola: História, Parentesco, Organização Política e Territorial, I (Lisbon,
1988), 136-152 and passim.
See Childs, Umbundu Kinship, 176 and 'Kingdom of Wambu', 370-1.
make a connection between the kingdom of Wambu and the kingdom of the Ngola
Kiluanji, preceding the relationship with the Imbangala/jaga chiefs.
A rather different narrative, coming from folklore rather than from the royal
courts, tells a story of the relationship between the last male survivor of the war
between men and lions and a widow lioness. Their descendants are said to be the
ancestors of all the Va-Nano.30
That these narratives convey the idea of both local people and foreigners
contributing to the population stock or specifically to the lineage in power is quite
common. The rejection of a violent king (Wambu Kalunga, a 'cannibal') who is by
ruse put to death by his dignitaries because he cannot be confronted directly, is very
similar to those found further north or east, as we should expect from those
Imbangala related narratives.31 Note that the kingdom of Wambu kept the name of
the only Jaga that ruled there, while his ruling dynasties all claimed to be from the
non-jaga stock. Rather different is the Ciyaka attitude, whose rulers claim to descend
from a 'nephew' or a 'cousin' of Wambu Kalunga, having expelled the Va-Ndombe
from the area. They still consider themselves related to the northern Imbangala of
Kasanje. Genealogical lists of Wambu kings based on oral tradition have been
published, the most important being those in Childs, Brandão and Lima (based on
Brandão). The lists are rather different in the number of the kings and in their names.
Based on oral tradition and written sources, Childs attempted to establish a
chronology of this and the other Ovimbundu kingdoms.32
For instance Luiz Alfredo Keiling, Quarenta Anos de África (Fraião-Braga, 1934), 90.
Lima, Os Kyaka, I, 156-7.
Cf. Miller, Kings and Kinsmen, passim.
Aníbal S. Brandão, Mensário Administrativo, 35-36 (July-August 1950), 39-42 and 45-46
(for the original Umbundu version). Brandão's informant, over ninety year old, was
Tchihunda Longuenda, once a slave trader, then a cattle trader in Huíla and forced to be a
porter in the Portuguese-Kwanyama war of 1915. His sixty year-old son Galito Katchibubo
was Brandão's employee: Brandão, Mensário Administrativo, 28 (December 1949), 25. See
also Lima, Kyaka, III, 85-87 and p. 89 n. 7, confirming with informants from Kahala, circa
Rather than speculate further, we now turn to an overview of the slave period
and the changes that led to the Portuguese conquest of the known Ovimbundu
kingdoms. These polities emerged or consolidated their power between the sixteenth
and the eighteenth centuries and were developing their production, trade and
diplomatic skills in the nineteenth century, but could not resist the colonial conquest
at the turn of the twentieth century (see map 2).
Warfare and the slave trade
The wider context for the history of central Africa after the sixteenth century is the
expansion of the Atlantic slave trade. At a more regional level, two major
developments were crucial to central Angola: the Portuguese territorial advance from
Luanda eastwards in the seventeenth century, and political developments in the great
savannas deep in central Africa where the emergence of the Lunda 'empire' was
creating dissidents and dislocation of peoples.33 The first information about the
Portuguese probably came to the lands south of the Kwanza from refugees fleeing
from the slaving raids and wars in the north. But the encounter between the
Portuguese and warlike groups on the coast would prove to be decisive. The
Imbangala bands which met European slave traders at the end of the sixteenth
century have been described in different sources.34 They have also been called
1970, Brandão's list of olosoma. For Childs' lists published after Umbundu Kinship, see
'Kingdom of Wambu', 378, and 'Chronology'.
See David Birmingham, Trade and Conflict in Angola: The Mbundu and their Neighbours
under the Influence of the Portuguese, 1483-1790 (Oxford, 1966); Miller Kings and
Kinsmen; Beatrix Heintze, Angola nos Séculos XVI e XVII: Estudos sobre Fontes, Métodos
e História (Luanda, 2007).
The most important contemporary reports on the Imbangala are: Andrew Battell in E. G.
Ravenstein (ed.) The Strange Adventures of Andrew Battel of Leigh in Angola and the
Adjoining Regions [1613] (London, 1901); J. A. Cavazzi de Montecúccolo, Descrição
Histórica dos Três Reinos do Congo Matamba e Angola (Lisbon, 1965), 2 vols. [first
published Bologne, 1687); Cadornega, História Geral.
'Jagas', a term also applied to other groups, making the Jaga question one of the
more debated subjects among historians concerned with Angola.35
The origin of the Imbangala is still obscure, but there is consensus that the
mature form of their war camps and of their political ideas developed in what is now
central Angola, probably during a period of ecological and demographic change
interacting with political and military transformation rooted locally or influenced by
changes further east. Miller stresses the ecological factor, pointing out how extreme
and persistent drought can generate radical changes in social behaviour and
institutions.36 In fact, bandits and roving bands living off pillage were a recurrent
phenomena in southern Angola, associated with periods of harsh conditions of life
for farmers and herders, due to natural or political causes.37
However, the itinerant Imbangala warrior bands were more structured than
simple bandits, with the capacity to keep the bands together and moving through
diverse geographic, demographic and linguistic landscapes. Apparently, they were a
totally new experiment among the social, political and military forms of their times.
The attempts by other political leaders to use 'Jaga skills' and 'Jaga allies' shows that
the former were not simply terrorised but also 'seduced' by the Jaga's military
success. The fact that many of the central plateau kingdoms were influenced by - or
even emerged from - the Imbangala actions justifies a few more comments on the
For about twenty years scholars exchanged arguments on the identity and influence of the
Jaga. See Jan Vansina, 'The foundation of the Kingdom of Kasanje', JAH, 3 (1963), 355-74;
David Birmingham, 'The date and significance of the Imbangala invasion of Angola', JAH, 2
(1965), 143-52; Jan Vansina, 'More on the invasions of Kongo and Angola by the Jaga and
the Lunda', JAH, 3 (1966), 421-9; Joseph Miller, 'The Imbangala and the chronology of
early central African history', JAH, 4 (1972), 549-74; Joseph Miller, 'Requiem for the
"Jaga"', Cahiers d'Études Africaines, 1 (1973), 121-49; John Thornton, 'A Resurrection for
the Jaga', Cahiers d'Études Africaines, 1 (1978), 223-7; Joseph Miller, 'Thanatopsis',
Cahiers d'Études Africaines, 1 (1978), 229-31; François Bontinck, 'Un mausolée pour les
Jaga', Cahiers d'Études Africaines, 3 (1980), 387-9; Anne Hilton, 'The Jaga reconsidered',
JAH, 2 (1981), 191-202. In the meantime, Joseph Miller had published his fundamental
Kings and Kinsmen, by far the best study on the Imbangala and the kilombo.
Miller, 'Significance of drought', 25-8.
See W. G. Clarence-Smith, Slaves, Peasants and Capitalists in Southern Angola, 1840-1926
(Cambridge, 1979), 82-8.
kilombo. This term for the war camp was also given to the warrior bands themselves
and, when they settled, to the centre of established political power.38
The main feature that set the Imbangala apart from (and against) other societies
of central Africa was the absolute rejection of kinship in their social organization.
This led to the prohibition of natural parenthood (including infanticide) and to the
growth of the bands exclusively through kidnapping and incorporation of young
members (not yet submitted to initiation rites) from the peoples they attacked.39 In
the local socio-political landscape, whether centralized states or loose associations of
kinship groups, the impact of such a way of living had to be enormous.
The rupture with any form of kinship or ethnic allegiance opened the way to a
man-to-man loyalty and to the absolute power of the chief. At the same time, it
promoted a warrior brotherhood and upward mobility inside the group. Since kinship
was no longer a reference, the heterogeneous groups needed another kind of social
glue. The answer was the development of the temporary war camp organization into
an institution for all the male members, whose initiation and membership were
reinforced by violent ritual ceremonies. These rituals gave them the sense of
belonging to a powerful group whose rules were above any other values. To become
a kilombo warrior implied much more than just living in the camp and following a
warlord. Other real or imagined attributes of the Imbangala and all those called 'Jaga'
– extreme cruelty, cannibalism, supernatural powers – certainly reinforced the idea of
their inhumanity and explained the terror that even the rumour of their arrival could
In Brazil, the 'quilombo' was the place where runaway slaves hid and reorganized
themselves. In Angola until the twentieth century it was also synonymous with a
commercial caravan camp in the bush or of any African war group. In contemporary
Umbundu, ocilombo refers to a camp in the bush and can be related to the old caravan trade,
to military activities (ocilombo caswalãli), or (in some areas) to the secluded place of boys'
circumcision rites. Further south, however, only a war camp would be called otyilombo. See
Maria C. Neto, 'Kilombo, Quilombos, Ocilombo', Mensagem: Revista Angolana de Cultura,
4, (Luanda, 1989), 5-19.
Even after they abandoned their nomadic life, there was still interdiction of giving birth
inside the camp or the village. See Cavazzi, Descrição, II, 203-4; Cadornega, História, III,
223 and 227.
cause. All these aspects were decisive in their military efficacy against the armies
recruited by other African rulers - and by the Portuguese. The Imbangala would
probably be one more of the many unknown facets of central African history if they
had not become associated with the Atlantic slave trade, which gave their raids a new
incentive. Now they could dispose of the people they would normally kill, in
exchange for foreign goods.
Facing the fact that they could not prevail in combat against the Imbangala
bands, the Portuguese used them as commercial and military partners, which proved
decisive on more than one occasion.40 The Portuguese-Imbangala alliance reinforced
both sides at the expense of the peoples and kingdoms north and south of the Kwanza
river (but with different results in every case). Moreover, other African rulers also
discovered the military advantages of the kilombo and some sought for an alliance
against the Portuguese. The loyalty of the Imbangala, therefore, shifted more than
once. When the Imbangala finally settled during the second half of the seventeenth
century, merging with local populations and resuming productive activities along
with the slave trade, the political landscape of west central Africa was already deeply
The history of the region north of the Kwanza is better known than that of the
region to the south. The Portuguese first established a colony between the lower
Kwanza and Dande rivers and from there they went up the Kwanza until it ceases to
be navigable, building on its margins a few fortresses in the 1580s, from where they
launched military attacks. Initially defeated, they sought an alliance with some
This was more than a Portuguese-Imbangala issue. From 1580 to 1640, Portugal was
united with Spain, despite a certain degree of autonomy. When a Portuguese rebellion in
1640 ended that 'dual-crown' union, the Dutch, no longer limited by a truce with Spain,
resumed their attacks on Portuguese colonies and captured Luanda between 1641 and 1648.
The slave trade and the role of the Imbangala were hardly affected.
For the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, see Birmingham, Trade and Conflict; Miller,
Kings and Kinsmen; Heintze, Angola; Ilídio do Amaral, O Consulado de Paulo Dias de
Novais: Angola no Último Quartel do Século XVI e Primeiro do Século XVII, (Lisbon,
2000); idem, O Rio Cuanza.
Imbangala chiefs who helped in subduing ngola kings and their tributaries. In 1671
they pushed further inland and conquered Mpungu a Ndongo, the Ndongo kingdom's
last capital, which developed into an important outpost for the slave trade from the
south. A few years before, the Portuguese had defeated the Kongo armies at Mbwila
(Ambuíla), contributing to the political decay of that kingdom. Bordering the
Portuguese colony of Angola there were a few 'vassal' African chiefs. New
hegemonic political powers in the middle Kwango controlled the main trade routes to
the east: Matamba and Kasanje. A constellation of smaller states, like the Ndembu,
Holo and Songo, shifted allegiances according to the circumstances.
South of the Kwanza, the Imbangala bands and warrior kings were willing to
do business but not to let the Portuguese gain a territorial foothold. There were
unproductive contacts with a 'king of Benguela' north of the plateau and disastrous
military campaigns in Kisama. After frustrated attempts in 1582 to settle by the
mouth of the Kuvo and by the mouth of the Longa in 1588, the Portuguese sailed
further south and established themselves near the Baía das Vacas (Cow Bay). There
was no important state to conquer in that underpopulated area, but they could get
cattle from the Ndombe herders and open a new slave trade route to the better
populated plateau. In 1615, the Spanish and Portuguese king Filipe gave Cerveira
Pereira royal orders to establish a new Capitania in Benguela (by the Longa river),
which he did but further south, in Baía das Vacas, in 1617. That was the beginning of
the Portuguese colony of Benguela (first 'Reino' than 'Provincia') that only in 1779
was put under the Luanda government.42
In the meantime, the Imbangala were causing political upheaval on the plateau.
Evidence taken from linguistics, oral traditions and anthropological studies
The 1615 royal order set apart the conquest and administration of Angola and Benguela
and 'gave the right of conquest' of Benguela and the lands to the south to Manuel Cerveira
Pereira. See Alfredo Felner, Angola: Apontamentos sobre a Ocupação e Início do
Estabelecimento dos Portugueses no Congo, Angola e Benguela (Coimbra, 1933), 440-1
and 545.
establishes connections between the kilombo and at least some of the plateau
kingdoms.43 However, it is difficult to distinguish cause from consequence or which
came first: the mature kilombo or the formation of the known Ovimbundu states,
since the process of state formation needs more than the action of a conquering
warlord. Without further research, using more archeological and linguistic evidence,
hypotheses either of vanished centralized states or of states consolidating only with
the slave trade remain unproven.
If we take available traditions at face value, the Imbangala are absent from the
origins of many of the ruling aristocracies.44 But these traditions were collected in
relatively recent times and it can be argued that they reflected changes that occurred
later than the seventeenth century. Relations with the Lunda, either through the
Ovimbundu trading caravans or the influx of Lunda-related expatriates, and the
importance of the ivory trade in the nineteenth century, could explain why 'elephant
hunters' became more interesting ancestors than 'man eaters'. It is possible that the
kilombo's heritage was obscured by more conventional oral traditions about hunters,
marriages and movements from 'the other side of the river', that are common in
central Africa. But it could also be the case that the rulers of some of the nineteenthcentury kingdoms were indeed the descendants of those who stood against the
A brief summary of origins according to the published traditions helps to make
this point. Kingdoms founded by hunters were Ngalange, the nearest to Feti and a
leading kingdom among the Ovimbundu; Mbalundu, whose hunter prince Katiavala
came from north-west (Cipala); Ndulu, founded by the elephant hunter Katekulu
Mengo; and Viye, named after an elephant hunter that came from south (Humbi).
Childs, Umbundu Kinship, 186-9.
Ibid., 170-180, but taking into account his 1970 'Chronology'. Also Magyar, Reisen, and
Serpa Pinto, Como eu Atravessei a Africa (Lisbon 1978 [1881]), whose traditions for Viye
Another Viye tradition, recorded around 1850, mentions the hunters' association
(pacasseiros) rebelling against the former Jaga rulers.45
Kingdoms said to be founded by women include Kalembe ka Njanja, a client
kingdom of Ngalange; Cingolo, whose fortified capital that was taken and destroyed
during the 1774-6 campaign was associated with a woman fleeing from Pungo
Andongo; and Sambu, founded by Alemba, a woman from Mbalundu who married a
local man. Kingdoms founded by Jaga are Ciyaka, founded by 'nephews' or 'sons' of
Wambu Kalunga, and which maintained unbroken a royal line of Jaga ancestry and
moved the capital to its present place after the 1774 war; Elende, whose founders are
said to come 'from the family of Wambu-Kalunga'; Ekekete, also 'from the family of
Wambu-Kalunga'; Viye, which, as noted before, had one tradition that it was
founded by rulers that became Jaga before being defeated by hunters; and Wambu,
founded by Wambu Kalunga.
By the end of the seventeenth century, Miller writes 'the growth of small
broker states along the coast, the persistence of warlords in the mountains and central
highlands and the consolidation of merchant princes in the populous regions
completed a full cycle of revolution and warfare'.46 In the central highlands, by 1730
warlords had 'waxed powerful as English and French introduced firearms along the
coasts south of the Kwanza'.47
During the eighteenth century, the activity of European and American slave
traders along the coast south of the Kwanza river increased sharply.48 Benguela
emerged as an important exporter of slaves by the 1720s and until Brazil enforced
For Viye, see Magyar, Reisen, 266-70.
Joseph C. Miller, 'The paradoxes of impoverishment in the Atlantic zone', in Birmingham
and Martin (eds.), History of Central Africa, (London/New York, 1983), I, 145.
Ibid., 149. Old types of firearms were in use from the seventeenth century, as Childs
(based on Cadornega) noted. Umbundu Kinship, 195.
For Angola, Brazil, Portugal and the Atlantic slave trade at its apogee, see Joseph C.
Miller, Way of Death. Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730-1830
(London, 1988).
the law banning the import of slaves in 1850 it was a major supplier of captives for
the Americas.49 However, much of the trade was conducted outside of any
Portuguese/Brazilian-controlled ports by other European slave traders, especially the
French. Soon the chiefs on the plateau were powerful enough to put the burden of the
slave trade on their neighbours, expanding it further east and south and allowing the
repopulating of their own states and the reinforcement of their political power.50
The fragmented political landscape of the plateau began to stabilize to some
extent around the more important chiefs and more than twelve kingdoms emerged or
were consolidated, the smaller or weaker becoming tributaries of the stronger.51 This
corresponded, according to Miller, to the 'decline of old polities based on keeping
people as dependents and the rise of a new type of state that thrived on enslaving
some and selling others abroad'.52 But the undeniable importance of the slave trade
should not obscure the diverse political trajectory of different states and other
important changes, namely in agriculture and related economic activities.
Information is scarce until the mid-eighteenth century, when the plateau kings
and their trade and military activities became more visible in official documents. The
pattern of the relations between the Wambu rulers and the Portuguese was similar to
others in the region, shifting from 'friendship' (meaning freedom of trade) to war or
raids on Portuguese merchant outposts, including short periods when a soma
See Joseph Miller, 'A marginal institution on the margin of the Atlantic system: The
Portuguese southern Atlantic slave trade in the eighteenth century', in Barbara Solow (ed.),
Slavery and the Rise of the Atlantic System (New York, 1991), 120-50; Roquinaldo Ferreira,
'The Atlantic Networks of the Benguela Slave Trade (1730-1800)', in CEAUP, Trabalho
Forçado Africano: Experiências Coloniais Comparadas, (Porto, 2006), 67-97; José C.
Curto, 'Alcohol in the context of the Atlantic slave trade: The case of Benguela and its
hinterland (Angola)', Cahiers d'études africaines, 201 (2011), 51-85; Mariana Cândido,
Fronteras de Esclavización: Esclavitud, Comercio y Identidad en Benguela, 1780-1850,
(Mexico City, 2011).
As Miller stressed, the situation was different according to whether societies were at the
crest of the eastward moving wave, in front of it or still further to the east. Miller, Way of
Death, 150.
For a tentative comparative chart of kings after 1600, see Childs, 'Chronology', 244-5.
Miller, Way of Death, 128-38.
accepted a 'vassal treaty' (tratado de vassalagem) and the concomitant formal
baptism and Christian name which most probably was seen as just another title.53 It
seems, nonetheless, that Wambu rulers spent more time in raiding than being
involved in trade. To the east, in contrast, Viye was developing long-distance trade
and attracting merchants from the Portuguese colony.
So, trade activity did not completely displace war and raids as a way of
accumulating slaves and cattle, and alliances were fragile. The people from
Mbalundu, Wambu, Ngalange and others became famous as the 'Nano' or 'Va-Nano'
('those from the highlands') that plundered Portuguese settlements and African
villages alike in western and southern zones. In Wambu, Cimbili II, who is said to
have re-established the old lineages after Wambu Kalunga, is mentioned as the one
who began the raids on the 'whites' and moved the ombala (capital) from Nganda (an
inselberg) to Samisasa, a rocky hill with water available from streams and which was
reinforced overtime with stone walls (see map 3).54
From Benguela, Pungo Andongo, Caconda and elsewhere, 'Portuguese' traders
(some from Portugal but most of them Africans or of Euro-African descent) as well
as runaway convicts, established themselves under the protection of the African
chiefs on the plateau. They sometimes acted as intermediaries with the Portuguese
authorities back in the colony but more often than not those authorities (and the
African kings) considered their activities an obstacle to good diplomacy. Some of
them were probably influential in stimulating long-distance trade and opening major
In a 1801 report from the Portuguese captain-major, the Wambu soma was 'by his national
name' Matende, and 'by baptism … Dom Alexandre José Botelho'. Ralph Delgado, Ao Sul
do Cuanza (Ocupação e Aproveitamento do antigo Reino de Benguela), 1483-1942 (Lisbon,
1944), I, 600-2. According to Childs, he was Vilombo Inene: 'Kingdom of Wambu', 374.
Matende could be a title used for several Wambu kings, or simply adopted by the
Portuguese from the name of former king Atende a Njamba.
Childs, 'Kingdom of Wambu', 372-5.
routes connecting the Portuguese ports to places as far as the upper Zambezi before
the end of the eighteenth century.55
The development of mining activities in Brazil and of trade at Rio de Janeiro
impacted on Benguela, where the 'Brazilians' dominated despite some attempts by
Luanda to forbid direct shipping from Benguela to Brazil and to revitalize the old
route between Dondo (on the Kwanza) and the plateau. Governor Sousa Coutinho
(1764-1772) tried to diversify economic activity and to 'rationalize' the slave trade,
both north and south of the Kwanza.56 Among his other initiatives, two had particular
consequences for the central highlands. First, Caconda was transferred to its present
location in the highlands in 1769, in a move aimed to foster further Portuguese
settlements in the interior. In fact, it became the central point of the trade – and a new
target for 'Va-Nano' raids.57 Second, a new Portuguese settlement on the coast, Novo
Redondo (present-day Sumbe), was established half-way between Luanda and
Benguela in order to counteract other European and American ships buying slaves
from the plateau.
This provoked an aggressive response from African rulers involved in the
trade, but Sousa Coutinho was against war as a means of expanding slaving. His
successor António de Lencastre listened to the complaints of Portuguese merchants
and followed a different path. In 1774, in Novo Redondo, the local African chief
Kabolo, now a Portuguese 'vassal', denied tribute to his former suzerain who attacked
the settlement. For the Portuguese this provided the pretext to launch a military
See Alexandre da Silva Teixeira, 'Relação da Viagem Que Fiz Desta Cidade de Benguella
para as Terras de Lovar … 23 de Dezembro de 1794', Arquivos de Angola, 1 (1935), 4,
document X.
For an account of Portuguese colonial activities in this period, see David Birmigham,
Trade and Conflict, Chapter 7.
See Felner, Angola: Apontamentos sobre a Ocupação, I, 163-169; Mariana Cândido,
Fronteras, especially 115-53.
campaign to submit the 'rebel' kings of the plateau, Mbalundu being considered the
most dangerous enemy.58
The campaign was mounted from the north and from the west against
Mbalundu, Wambu, Cingolo, Ciyaka and others. After months of inconclusive
fighting, the Portuguese eventually entered Mbalundu and captured the king and
local dignitaries, who were imprisoned in Luanda. Despite its rivalry with Mbalundu,
Wambu played an important role against the invaders. The Wambu chief, 'Matende',
fought a battle near Kitala where he was allegedly killed after an initial success and
his troops retreated to the small kingdom of Kingolo, the ombala of which was
strongly fortified.59 After more fighting, Kingolo too had to be abandoned. The last
redoubt was in Ciyaka where natural great rocky labyrinths enabled resistance for a
while, but in the end the invaders prevailed, capturing hundreds of slaves, mostly
women, children and old people who were not able to escape. However, the victors
complained that they could not get the expected number of slaves, the main motive
for traders and settlers in supporting the war.60
The consequences of the defeat were serious, but the Portuguese could not
sustain their victory and they did not permanently conquer the territory. The ombala
of Kingolo had his impressive stone fortifications destroyed and many African chiefs
became more inclined to cooperate with the Portuguese traders. Miller considered
that this Portuguese expedition 'displaced the old warrior lords on the central plateau
and installed merchant princes willing to sell slaves to the Portuguese in Wambu and
other highland states near Caconda'.61
It is arguable, then, that the Portuguese could influence events but did not have
For a detailed description of that campaign by a contemporary source, see Elias Alexandre
da Silva Corrêa, História de Angola (Lisbon, 1939), vol. 2, 48-68.
See Maria Emília Madeira Santos, Nos Caminhos de África. Serventia e Posse. Angola
Século XIX (Lisbon, 1998), 525.
This account follows Corrêa, História de Angola, 48-68.
Miller, 'Paradoxes', 149.
the power, after their military forces left the plateau, to displace warrior lords from
the scene. Moreover, the distinction between warrior lords and merchant princes on
the plateau was often blurred, with warfare and raids entangled in trade. The hoka,
the warrior corps often led by the king himself, left almost every year from
Ngalange, Wambu and Mbalundu, either separately or joining forces to raid cattle
herders to the south or Portuguese settlements to the west, going as far as Novo
Redondo and Moçâmedes (now Namibe). The hoka could also be used to impose
tribute payment on a 'rebellious' tributary chiefdom.62
The campaign of 1774-6 revealed the limits and weaknesses of the Portuguese
armies far from the coast, and for more than a century they launched no further great
military operations on the plateau.63 From Caconda, slave raids sometimes doubled
as punitive wars supposedly triggered by the 'misconduct' of African chiefs. Caconda
also came under occasional attack from chiefs and warlords wanting to plunder the
trade goods kept in their premises. The small Portuguese settlement in Caconda
looked like one more 'power' in the political panorama of the plateau, closer to
African polities than to a European colony.
As far as we know, Samisasa was not a battlefield during the 1774-6 war, its
strong position apparently preventing any direct attack until 1902. However, fighting
took place somewhere in the kingdom in 1796, when the Wambu soma was said to
have been 'heavily punished' and accepted a 'vassal treaty'. As noted before, however,
this did not prevent him from being considered 'rebellious'.64 For a while it had a
Portuguese regente (representative, usually for commercial purposes) and the
number of moradores (foreign residents from the Portuguese colony) was growing.
See Magyar, Reisen, 175-80.
Diplomatic relations resumed. Many years after the war, Mbalundu got back the bones of
the captured soma who died in Luanda, an important issue since the skulls of all olosoma
are kept (until now) in a sacred space. In March 1813, the Mbalundu soma thanked the
Governor of Benguela for the gesture. See Delgado, Ao Sul, I, 623-4.
Ibid., I, 595-7.
Some interesting reports about the economy were reaching Benguela, mostly about
the trade in slaves, beeswax and ivory, but also about agriculture and the production
of iron implements. Wambu controlled an iron ore zone to the north-east, variously
Zamba, Djamba or Jamba, and its soma was referred to as 'powerful Huambo or
Matende', ruling also over 'Quipeio, Quirono, and Zamba'.65
In the meantime, in Viye, an internal conflict resulted in the soma Kangombe
being sold as a slave to Luanda. There, protected by the Governor, he was baptized
António de Vasconcelos and, with Portuguese help, was restored to power in 1778,
attracting more traders from the Portuguese colony to Viye, which developed as the
major outpost of the trade between Benguela and the far regions to the east and
The limitations of Portuguese power, trying to keep at bay their foreign
competitors but lacking the resources further to develop their own trade, are
explained by Miller.66 They managed to secure control of the coast between Luanda
and Benguela, but trade relied mostly on the dynamics of the Brazilians and the
Luso-Africans, as Miller called them, who continued to pursue their own interests
and to circumvent orders from Lisbon. This seemed to be the case in Benguela and
its hinterland, where a less militaristic form of the slave trade expanded in the
nineteenth century. From a broader perspective, the period from 1730 to 1830 was
one 'in which commercialization spread deep into central Africa … [and] the
southern Atlantic slave trade passed from an earlier militaristic and planterdominated phase into condemnation, illegality, and, belatedly, termination in the
nineteenth century'.67 The next section examines the path from 'condemnation' to
'termination' of the slave trade in Angola.
Regente of Wambu to Governador de Benguela, 15 February 1798, in Delgado, Ao sul, I,
See Miller, Way of Death, 633 and 650-653.
Ibid., xx.
The delayed and elusive abolition of slavery
One general consequence of the slave trade in Africa was increased social
stratification, and central Angola was no exception. This was the result of a greater
number of slaves and slave-like dependents from other societies reinforcing the old
aristocracies. But it also happened through the hardening of internal judicial systems
that resulted in more people being enslaved, both on a temporary and a permanent
In Angola, the height of the Atlantic slave trade was in the early nineteenth
century, with a new rise in exports as a consequence of the international abolition
measures north of the equator and of Brazilian independence from Portugal in
1822.69 British pressure on Brazil to end the slave trade up to 1830 generated a rush
for 'legal' slaves from the American side in the 1820s. After that, smuggling activity
on the Angolan coasts made costs higher and conditions of enslaving and
transportation worse.70 During the nineteenth century, central-southern Angola also
exported ivory, bees wax, urzela (orchilia), cattle hides and (later on) wild rubber. It
was then that the ivory trade reached its height and guns were funnelled eastwards by
Ovimbundu caravans.71 Elephant hunters such as the Cokwe became important
This is not the place to discuss the many meanings of 'slave' and related categories in
different societies. There was no single 'African slavery', just as there was no single
'Western slavery'. An old review article by Frederick Cooper is still important: 'The problem
of slavery in African studies', JAH, 20 (1979), 103-25.
Valentim Alexandre is the main reference for nineteenth-century Portuguese imperial
ideology and politics: Os Sentidos do Império: Questão Nacional e Questão Colonial na
Crise do Antigo Regime Português, (Porto, 1993); 'Ruptura e estruturação de um novo
império', in F. Bethencourt e K. Chaudhuri (eds.) História da Expansão Portuguesa, vol. IV
- Do Brasil para África (1808-1930) (Lisbon, 1998), 9-87; Velho Brasil, Novas Africas:
Portugal e o Império (1808-1975) (Porto, 2000).
See Paul E. Lovejoy and David Richardson, 'British Abolition and its Impact on Slave
Prices along the Atlantic Coast of Africa, 1783-1850', Journal of Economic History, 55,
(1995), 98-119.
To the north, the caravans of the Imbangala of Kasanje played a similar role. See Isabel
Castro Henriques, Percursos da Modernidade em Angola. Dinâmicas Comerciais e
Transformações Sociais no Século XIX (Lisbon, 1997).
commercial partners and their own success led them to challenge the Lunda chiefs
and to alter the map of what is now eastern Angola.72
Those trades paralleled the slave trade for many decades after the first
abolitionist legislation.73 The decree of 10 December 1836 forbade only the exports
of slaves 'by sea' and 'by land' but not slave imports by land into the Portuguese
colonies. It also allowed the transfer of slaves 'by sea' between Portuguese territories
and to Brazil under certain limits. Despite the cooperation of Portuguese authorities
with British naval forces, only after Brazilian ports ceased to import slaves in 1850
did the Atlantic slave trade fade. Exports rapidly declined and the economic crisis led
many established traders to leave Angola for Brazil.74
However, smuggling went on along shores and bays, not only in areas out of
Portuguese control (in the north) but also in those fully integrated in the colony. One
case in point was the bay of Lucira, south of Benguela, where vessels were trading
slaves, apparently to Spanish Cuba. Settlers using slave labour in their plantations or
for the collection of orchilia argued that the illegal transatlantic trade diverted
potential 'resources' and their own slaves escaped or rebelled, 'terrorized' by the
possibility of being embarked.75 British government pressure on Portugal and Brazil,
the anti-slaving convictions of Portuguese politicians such as Sá da Bandeira and the
new colonial interests finally ended the Atlantic slave trade from Angola, but not the
internal trade. Whatever Lisbon's intentions and decisions, the situation on the
ground responded to local priorities. In colonial society such laws were obeyed
See Joseph Miller, 'Cokwe trade and conquest in the nineteenth century' in Richard Gray
& David Birmingham (eds.), Pre-colonial African Trade (London,1970), 174-201;
Henriques, Percursos, 599-636.
For abolitionism in Portugal, see Valentim Alexandre, above, and his debate with João Pedro
Marques in the review Penelope (Lisbon) 1994 and 1995. See also João Pedro Marques, The
Sounds of Silence: Nineteenth-Century Portugal and the Abolition of the Slave Trade
(Oxford, 2006).
For the close Angola-Brazil relationship, see Manuel da Silva Rebelo, Relação entre
Angola e o Brasil (1808-1830) (Lisbon, 1970).
Copy of the 1861 letter to the Governor-General in Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino
(Lisbon), Angola CG, Pasta 28 (633).
reluctantly and Portuguese legislation had no direct impact outside the relatively
small colony of Angola.76
The end of internal slaving and slave labour was another story. In 1858, Lisbon
decreed that all slaves in the colonies should be free in twenty years. In 1869, they
were turned into 'libertos' (freedmen) but compelled to work for their former masters
for a small salary. In 1875, all 'libertos' were to be freed in one year but kept under
state tutelage (Junta dos Libertos) until April 1878. Then, for a short period, colonial
legislation rejected all forms of non-free labour, despite ample evidence of slaves and
slave-like situations and circumvention of the law.77
Towards the end of the century, coffee and cocoa plantations on the islands of
São Tomé and Príncipe reinvigorated the trade of so-called serviçais (servants). For
those forcibly leaving their homes for unknown destinations, there was no great
difference from the old days of slaving: arriving at the same seaports by the same old
routes from the interior, they were embarked to São Tomé with a high probability of
never coming back.78
In Angola, productive activities also relied on the serviçais, with transportation
depending on them and on porters whose 'recruitment' was often similar. The
situation was worsening towards the end of the century, with abuse by merchants and
African chiefs frequently reported. Forced porterage was questioned well before the
In 1861, the ill-defined eastern limits of colonial Angola were Bembe and Malanje in the
north, Caconda in the south. On the northern coast, Ambriz was recently occupied (1855).
The old Kongo kingdom was yet to be occupied. See Sebastião Calheiros Menezes,
Relatório do Governador Geral da Provincia de Angola - Referido ao Anno de 1861
(Lisbon, 1867).
See W. G. Clarence-Smith, 'Slavery in Coastal Southern Angola, 1875-1913', Journal of
Southern African Studies, 2 (1976), 216-217.
See Augusto Bastos, Monographia de Catumbella (Lisbon, 1912), 18, 24; Linda
Heywood, 'Porters, Trade and Power: The Politics of Labor in the Central Highlands of
Angola, 1850-1914', in C. Coquery-Vidrovitch and Paul Lovejoy (eds.), The Workers of
African Trade, (Beverly Hills, 1985), 243-67; idem, 'Slavery and Forced Labor in the
Changing Political Economy of Central Angola, 1850-1949', in Suzanne Miers and Richard
Roberts (eds.), The End of Slavery in Africa (Madison, 1988), 415-36.
abolition of slavery.79 Porterage conditions varied greatly, however, with different
areas having different legislation, not to mention the fact that porters were the main
transport means in the long-distance caravan trade.80 Porterage could become a
highly skilled occupation. If some porters were slaves or forced workers, many free
men also did the job for a previously negotiated payment. This was the usual system
in Benguela and central Angola at large, but the rubber boom after 1880 put more
pressure on available labour and made forced recruitment more common, under
many disguises.81
Domestic and international criticism prompted some improvement in the
conditions of serviçais and 'contract workers'. But in the new wave of imperial
conquest, colonial doctrines dismissed 'assimilation' and inspired a 'Native Labour
Code' (Código do Trabalho dos Indígenas, 1899) that consecrated legal forms of
forced labour for most African subjects: 'repression of vagrancy', 'correctional
penalties', unpaid labour for 'public interest works', and 'contracts' in which the
worker had no say. That situation, with a few changes, would last until 1961, as we
will see in subsequent chapters.
For instance, in January 1856, the Overseas Council led by Sá da Bandeira stated that all
free men in the colony were equally Portuguese subjects and should not be forced to do
porterage or any other job. They insisted that the system in use in 'the Benguela districts',
where forced porterage had been abolished since 1796, had not jeopardized the development
of the trade. Annaes do Conselho Ultramarino, Parte Official, Serie I, February 1854 to
December 1858, (Lisbon, 1867), 623-36.
And obviously in any expedition. For a recent work, see Beatrix Heintze, Pioneiros
Africanos: Caravanas de Carregadores na África Central Ocidental (entre 1850 e 1890)
(Luanda, 2004).
See António Carreira, Angola da Escravatura ao Trabalho Livre (Lisbon, 1977), 95-150;
Alfredo Margarido, 'Les porteurs: forme de domination et agents de changement en Angola
(XVIIe-XIXe siècles)', Revue française d'Histoire d'Outre-Mer, 240 (1978), 377-400;
Henriques, Percursos, 402-19; Heywood, 'Porters'; Adelino Torres, O império Português
entre o Real e o Imaginário (Lisbon 1991), 77-8; W. G. Clarence-Smith, 'Capital
accumulation and class formation in Angola', in Birmingham and Martin, History of Central
Africa, I, 168; idem, The Third Portuguese Empire 1825-1975. A Study in Economic
Imperialism (Manchester, 1985), 107.
Great caravans, great kings – a 'golden age'?
It may be a paradox, but the nineteenth century is remembered on the central plateau
as the great century of Ovimbundu kingdoms and not as the depressing times of
slaving. In fact, what is remembered is the height of the long-distance caravan trade,
dominated by Viye and Mbalundu but also shared by smaller groups like the Ciyaka,
able to adapt to the new demands of 'legitimate' commerce.82 For the more fortunate,
it was a period when agriculture expanded partly due to the incorporation of female
slave labour and when many more people could get access to foreign goods.
Although skins, leather and bark cloth were not forgotten, people more involved in
the trade used exclusively imported cloth, which displaced former ways of
The social importance of the caravan trade was multiple and Childs noted its
role in boys' initiation to adulthood: later childhood 'was well marked for the boys by
his first trip with a trading caravan. Most of the present older generation have had
this experience and nearly every man of the present middle-generation as well'.84 The
caravan era was also a time when the Va-Nano were feared by their neighbours, and
foreigners coming to their lands paid tribute to their kings. In these 'golden age'
memories, there is no place for internecine conflicts or for violence, famine, disease
and the fear of being enslaved (temporarily or for life). Yet these aspects are equally
See Ingeborg Schönberg-Lothholz, 'Die Karawanenreisen der Tjiaka um 1900', Memórias
e Trabalhos do Instituto de Investigação Científica de Angola (Luanda, 1960), 109-28. For a
caravan's leader narrative, see Paulo Coimbra, 'A curiosa história': Eine
Geschichtüberlieferung aus Angola (Wien, 1985). On Coimbra, see Schönberg-Lothholz,
above, and also Heintze, Pioneiros, 205-26.
See Maria Emília Madeira Santos, 'Tecnologias em presença: manufacturas europeias e
artefactos africanos (c. 1850-1880)', in Santos, Nos caminhos, 233-69. This and other essays
in the book are essential for the nineteenth-century history of the region. Magyar and Silva
Porto are the main primary sources, but Serpa Pinto is also of interest. Magyar, Reisen; Silva
Porto, Viagens e Apontamentos de um Portuense em África. Diário de António Francisco
Ferreira da Silva Porto, vol. 1 (Coimbra, 1986); Pinto, Como eu Atravessei, vol. I.
Childs, Umbundu Kinship, 105.
Ovimbundu commercial caravans, along with those of Portuguese merchants
and their African agents, were the most remarkable face of trade in the region from
mid-century onwards.85 The main routes that linked the large slave suppliers further
to the northeast (Lunda, Kazembe) to the Benguela coast, developed further with the
ivory trade.86 But shorter routes paralleled or crossed the main ones, where a variety
of local products circulated, for domestic consumption or for the Atlantic trade. The
former included palm oil from the west, hoes and other iron artefacts from Ndulu and
cattle from the south. For a long time, most people were only familiar with these
shorter regional routes, the remarkable exception being the Va-Viye (in Portuguese,
Bienos, from Bié), who were famous for their long-distance trade.
Viye lies at the eastern limit of the central plateau and marks the transition to
the plains of eastern Angola that extend into central Africa. It was also, before the
colonial period, the limit of the Umbundu language and it incorporated a good
number of non-Ovimbundu people. This state, more than five hundred kilometres
and several weeks march from the coast, was in the nineteenth century the most
important centre for the caravan trade between the Atlantic coast south of the
Kwanza river and a great part of central Africa. The Portuguese were in part
responsible for that, pushing their trade further east and having an almost continuous
presence in Viye since 1778, when they helped to restore Kangombe or António de
Vasconcelos to power. But at that same period important changes occurred in central
Africa at large and Viye had a privileged intermediary location between more
In 1879, in his Benguela-Viye journey, Silva Porto counted forty Ovimbundu caravans,
ten of which (all from Viye) carried ivory: 'Bailundos and Bienos now are all merchants and
they only care about their interests'. Maria Emília M. Santos, 'Borracha, crédito e autonomia
do comércio africano na ligação à economia internacional. O caso dos Ovimbundos', Studia, 51
(Lisbon, 1992), 19.
In the middle of the nineteenth century Catumbela, (near Benguela) became the main
destination of the plateau trade.
interior zones and Benguela, while having relatively easy access to Pungo Andongo,
on the Luanda route.87
Detailed descriptions of caravans revealed the degree of organization needed to
march a party of hundreds or even thousands of men across many hundreds of
kilometers, dealing with different environments and not always friendly political
authorities.88 After 1880 wild rubber was the main product and, unlike the slave and
ivory markets controlled by African chiefs, it was more diversified in its sources and
easier to carry.89 The number of participants in a great Viye caravan could reach
several thousand men, many carrying long guns (the lazarinas, popular in the
African trade).90 The probability of being attacked on their way home was high, due
to the variety of goods purchased on the coast. Some of these armed men were also
porters, but others took part in the caravan as hunters and guards. The olofumbelo
(sing. fumbelo, rich man) were wealthy enough to contract servants or to have slaves
carry their goods for them. Most of the porters and armed guards were freemen,
conducting their own business, but many were paid carriers and some were slaves or
dependents of some sort.91
The goods carried to the interior included many types of cloth, rum
(aguardente or geribita), guns, gunpowder and flints, blankets, draperies, bells,
glasses, knives and needles, mirrors and wool caps, different sorts of beads, salt and
For the broader central Africa economy, see Jean-Luc Vellut, 'Le bassin du Congo et
l'Angola', Histoire générale de l'Afrique VI: L'Afrique au XIXe siècle jusque vers les années
1880 (Paris 1996), 331-61; idem, 'L'économie internationale des côtes de Guinée Inférieure
au XIXème siècle', I Reunião Internacional de História de África - Actas (Lisbon, 1989),
Magyar and Silva Porto are first-hand sources for nineteenth-century caravans. Magyar
lived in Viye between 1849 and 1857 and died near Benguela in 1864. Porto was in Viye,
with a few interruptions, from 1840 until his dead in 1890. For caravan photographs, see
Santos, Nos caminhos, 49-54, 216-7, 220-1, 226-9. For caravan organization, see Henriques,
Percursos, 402-30.
See Schonberg-Lothholz, 'Die Karawanenreisen'.
In Portuguese, caravana, comitiva or quibuca; in Umbundu, endo; those going to the
coast, ombaka; those organized by chiefs, omaka. Grégoire Le Guennec & José Francisco
Valente, Dicionário Português-Umbundu (Luanda, 1972), 98.
Cf. Stephen J. Rockel, Carriers of Culture. Labor on the Road in Nineteenth-Century East
Africa, (Portsmouth, 2006).
a variety of European utensils. All those commodities demanded specific ways of
wrapping and packing to be carried on a man's shoulder or head for more than one
month. The best paid porters carried cloth and glasses, followed by those carrying 25
litre barrels of rum, then those carrying the guns (eight per pack), the small 9 kilo
barrels of gunpowder, the beads and finally the salt, whose porters received only half
of the payment of the cloth porters. Each man carried an average 30 kilo pack, plus a
gun if he had one, sleeping mat, a calabash for the water, some foodstuff and an
earthenware pot to cook in during the journey.92
The value and size of such caravans demanded experienced organizers to
control and verify packaging, to assure a correct distribution of weight and a certain
distribution of the merchandise along the caravan. They also decided the strategic
location of the leather suitcases with the ammunition ready for defence. Each caravan
could include several entrepreneurs with his slaves and porters, and porters working
for themselves. The caravan chief (hando) and his second-in-command responsible
for defence (kesongo) had to be skilled diplomats in order to avoid internal conflict
and to negotiate passage taxes with chiefs along the way. The kesongo was expected
to interpret good and bad omens. He and his helpers assured the safety of the night
camps (ocilombo, pl. ovilombo or ilombo). If someone died, the kesongo should
redistribute the cargo to the others. On arrival back home, he was responsible for
telling the family of the deceased man the circumstances of his death.
Mbalundu was challenging Viye's hegemony in the nineteenth century but until
the 1870s the trade east of the Kwanza river seemed to be exclusively in the hands of
Viye.93 Rivalry turned occasionally into confrontation but peaceful coexistence was
necessary, since the Va-Mbalundu could easily block the trade routes between Viye
See Magyar, Reisen, 27-35, and passim. See also Henriques, Percursos, 402-30.
For a Mbalundu attack on Viye in 1823, see Santos, Nos caminhos, 62. In 1847 the
Governor of Benguela informed the Governo-General that four sobas (olosoma) once
tributaries of Viye were tributaries of Mbalundu. Delgado, Ao Sul, I, 346.
and the Atlantic, while the Va-Viye's knowledge of the eastern routes was essential
for the trade. Peace allowed long-distance trade to flow with minor disturbances and
it was most welcomed by the Portuguese authorities in Benguela and by the
'Portuguese' traders all over the Benguela hinterland.94
During the last thirty years of the nineteenth century, beeswax and rubber
became the main exports through Benguela.95 Rubber prices reached a peak by the
end of the century before crashing dramatically. Rubber was collected from beyond
the central plateau to the east. Mbalundu, deeply involved in that trade, enjoyed a
period of prosperity and stability for almost twenty years under Ekwikwi II (18761893).96 Viye still controlled much of the long-distance trade and had the biggest
community of foreign trade agents, but had more internecine conflicts.97 Ekwikwi
built his regional power through selective alliances but also by threatening and
raiding less compliant people. On the pretext of protecting trade against robbers he
tried to get Portuguese support for extending his hegemony to Ciyaka, to Kibula and
farther northwest. He went to war almost every year to ensure the tribute of reluctant
subalterns or to get more cattle and people.98
In 1874, Viye had already 'opened the doors' of eastern countries to their western
neighbours. Santos, Nos caminhos, 152. In 1886, after some troubles, Ekwikwi informed the
Portuguese that peace with Viye was restored and trade could resume freely. D. Sobba
Ecuhique to Cheffe da Catumbella, 18 September 1886. Arquivo Nacional de Angola
[hereafter ANA], Avulsos, Caixas Bailundo. Written documents emanated from the court of
African kings were normally written by someone with some knowledge of Portuguese. For
these and other 'appropriations' of writing, see the essays and documents in Ana Paula
Tavares and Catarina Madeira Santos, Africae Monumenta. A Apropriação da Escrita pelos
Africanos, vol. I, Arquivo Caculo Cacahenda (Lisbon, 2002).
In 1879, wax exports were worth more than all other tropical items combined. ClarenceSmith, Third Portuguese Empire, 66.
Childs, Umbundu Kinship, 209-11.
Silva Porto witnessed more than one 'coup d'etat' in the second half of the century.
Magyar left Viye after his father-in-law Kayangula lost the throne in 1854.
D. Ecuhique Sobba do Bailundo to Cheffe d'Concelho da Catumbella, 18 September
1886, ANA, Avulsos, Caixas Bailundo. Ekwikwi was 'asking permission' for launching a
new military campaign. In 1892, the captain-major Silva alerted Benguela that Ekwikwi was
about to send his warriors to attack 'his subordinate' Ndulu which refused to pay tribute.
Silva apparently convinced Ekwikwi to let him solve the problem peacefully. Capitão-mor
Justino Teixeira da Silva to Secretario do Governo de Benguella, 1 January 1892. ANA,
Avulsos, Caixas, Bailundo. Also Missionary Herald, LXXIX (1883), 338-9.
Ekwikwi's time in power is remembered as the apogee of Mbalundu and he is,
in oral-based accounts, among heroic ancestors who fought the Portuguese. In fact,
this 'fight' was never in the battlefield, since the Portuguese did not dare to attack
Mbalundu until after his death. Moreover, Ekwikwi's strategy was not one of open
confrontation with the Portuguese but of diplomacy (and occasionally blackmail).99
Before Ekwikwi, Mbalundu was already counted among Portugal's African 'allies', in
a dramatic change from the situation in the eighteenth century.100 But under his
leadership Mbalundu developed more intense political and commercial relations with
the Portuguese in Benguela and the main warehouses in Catumbela, namely the firm
'Cauchat Frère'.101
Portugal was not always up to the challenge. In a letter addressed to Ekwikwi
in 1877, the Governor of Benguela apologized for not having a capitão-mor to
appoint to Mbalundu. Ekwikwi's interest in an official Portuguese representative,
expressed in his correspondence, was related to control over the 'Portuguese' traders
that lived or passed through his kingdom. It was also influenced by his rivalry with
Viye, considering that a resident Portuguese representative would enhance
Mbalundu's importance. In February 1881, another governor commented on a
'vassalage' proposal from Mbalundu. His realistic opinion was 'to wait for a more
explicit manifestation of such desire', that also giving him time 'to be in better
circumstances to use force to assure that vassalage'.102
In 1884, Ekwikwi insisted on having a 'representative of the [Portuguese]
nation' to discuss matters related to the 'interests of the country'. He also asked for a
A conference on Ekwikwi II in Luanda in 1998 revealed the difference between the
document-based research and the use of (non recorded) oral narratives by 'inspired' writers.
See Elias Sanjukila, Reino do Bailundo (sua História na Resistência Tenaz contra o
Colonialismo Português) (Huambo, 1997). See also Childs, Umbundu Kinship, 210.
See Menezes, Relatório, 98.
See Maria C. Neto, 'Hóspedes incómodos: Portugueses e Americanos no Bailundo 18751895', Actas do Seminário 'Encontro de Povos e Culturas em Angola' - Luanda, Abril 1995
(Lisbon, 1997), 375-87.
Angolana: Documentação sobre Angola, vol. I (1783-1883) (Luanda, 1968), 259-60.
Catholic priest 'to teach my children how to read and write'. In the letter, he was
presented 'as a faithful vassal of His Catholic Majesty Dom Luiz I, King of
Portugal'.103 On the eve of the Berlin Conference this certainly flattered Lisbon, but
nobody at the local level or in Benguela pretended that the Portuguese were ruling
Mbalundu. The Portuguese authorities still had to ask for Ekwikwi's permission to
enter the country and to carry on any activity, such as searching for runaway
Perhaps the most far-reaching gesture of Ekwikwi was his decision to detain in
Mbalundu the missionary party sent by the American Board of Commissioners for
Foreign Missions that in 1881 came up-country from Benguela to open a
Congregational mission. Ekwikwi, whose capital they visited on their way to Viye,
forced them to stay and open a mission station in Mbalundu instead. Caught in the
middle of the Mbalundu-Viye rivalry, the missionaries' doubts were reinforced when
in June 1884 the king changed his mind and expelled them. Benguela merchants had
convinced Ekwikwi of the perils of those missionaries to the Mbalundu-Catumbela
trade. Some months later Ekwikwi changed his mind again and had the missionaries
back, this time for good, joined in 1886 by missionaries of the United Church of
Canada.105 However, Christianity had little impact until the end of the century.
Wambu in the nineteenth century
The importance of Mbalundu superseded that of Wambu long before colonial
conquest, but the soma of Wambu was still respected or feared, by both Europeans
and Africans. Caravan leaders had to be careful not to displease the soma while
Domingos Antonio de Freitas, on behalf of 'D. Equiqui Sobba acagede de Bailundo e sua
dependencia', to Governor of Benguela, 12 March 1884. ANA, Avulsos, Caixas Bailundo.
See Neto, 'Hóspedes'.
Lawrence Henderson, The Church in Angola: A River of Many Currents, (Cleveland,
1992), 53-56; Fola Soremekun 'Religion and Politics in Angola: The American Board
Missions and the Portuguese Government 1880-1922', Cahiers d’études africaines, 43
(1971), 341-77.
crossing the territory. Visits should be paid to his capital with a substantial tribute,
Magyar noted, since 'the Wambu sovereign … specially because he is the sovereign
of a warrior people, occupies the highest position among the chiefs whose lands are
crossed by the Viye caravan route'.106 Wambu, although smaller in size and
population, was strong enough not to be absorbed or dominated by the rising power
of Mbalundu, and at the turn of the twentieth century it still had, among the
Portuguese military and administrative colonial staff, a strong reputation for being
'rebellious', a reputation justified by its precedent history. Both Mbalundu and
Wambu tried to enrol the Portuguese as allies against each other, using accusations
of robbery or 'killing whites' to get more firearms and gunpowder. The pretext was to
keep the routes safe for the trade but in fact guns had become essential to their
economic and political power, as elsewhere in Africa.107
As Childs noted, the political divisions of the hinterland reported in 1799 by
the Governor of Benguela were basically the same that nineteenth-century European
traders and travellers mentioned and that the Ovimbundu referred to in the 1940s.
However this does not clarify their past interrelations and hierarchies.108 At the
beginning of the nineteenth century, Wambu had a Capitão-mor chosen from among
the residents and responsible for 28 moradores: eight blacks 'from overseas'
(Brazil?), five whites 'from overseas' and fifteen pardos ('mixed-race') from the
country. The Wambu soma was said to rule over eleven sovetas (tributary chiefs)
controlling 139 libatas (villages). 109 In April 1803, the Governor of Angola wrote to
Lisbon about possible routes to reach the interior of central Africa, based on 'a
Magyar, Reisen, 157.
Soba do Bailundo D. Lourenço Ferreira da Cunha, Ngiraulo, to Governador de Benguela,
2 March 1813, in Delgado, Ao sul, I, 623-4. Idem, 4 May 1813, suggesting to the Governor
prohibition of selling gunpowder to 'Wambu, Sambos and Candumbo', in Delgado, Ao sul, I,
Alexandre José Botelho de Vasconcellos, 'Descripção da Capitania de Benguella … 1 de
Agosto de 1799', Annaes Maritimos e Coloniaes, parte não oficial, 4ª série (1844), 147-61.
See Childs, Umbundu Kinship, 167 and 168 n. 1.
Report, 16 April 1801, in Delgado, Ao Sul, I, 600-2.
sertanejo that reached Lovár' (the Luvale country is today divided between Angola
and Zambia). One of those caravan routes crossed Wambu, described as among the
most important rulers in that hinterland (é dos mais potentados que tem este sertão).
The site of his ombala, a rocky island in a plain, could be seen from the caravan
route passing at a distance of a two hour march.110
In 1823 the Wambu king sent an embassy to Caconda proposing again a vassal
treaty.111 It is not clear whether he got it or not but in 1829 the Wambu soma, D.
Domingues Pereira Diniz, reassured the Governor of Benguela that he would accept
the Governor's choice of one white man (among those already resident in Wambu) to
act as capitão-mor.112 The Governor-General decided to appoint a feirante (a
merchant that also represented Portuguese interests) there and in 1847 a new detailed
and more favourable description of Wambu was sent to Luanda by the Governor of
Benguela. From Wambu came wax, ivory, beans and slaves, exchanged at the coast
for cloth, rum and gunpowder.113 The new soma, Kapoko, wanted to be a 'nephew
vassal' of the Portuguese king and sent a female slave as a gift, to which the governor
of Benguela responded with an even more valuable gift, as expected in their
diplomatic relations.114
By 1870, the Portuguese and the Ovimbundu on the plateau had to readjust to
changing circumstances and alliances shifted quickly to conflict. Raids and plunder
were frequent among Africans and between Africans and Europeans. In 1871 a Nano
warrior party (guerra do Nano) attacked Novo Redondo and Quicombo on the coast.
Further south, Wambu had a conflict with Quilenges (south-west of Caconda) in that
Alfredo Albuquerque Felner, Angola: Apontamentos sôbre a colonização dos planaltos e
litoral do Sul de Angola extraídos de documentos históricos (Lisbon, 1940), II, 12-27.
Delgado, Ao sul, I, 600-1.
Ibid., 602-3.
Governo de Benguela to Governador-Geral, 16 June 1847. Delgado, Ao sul, I, 604.
Governo de Benguela to Governador-Geral, 4 May 1847. Delgado, Ao sul, I, 604-5.
same year but in 1873 it was apparently helping moradores of Quilengues against
Kipungu further south.115
The appointment of a capitão-mor to Viye and Mbalundu (but based in Viye)
in the 1880s was not exactly an innovation and affected Wambu less than caravans
from Viye being diverted towards alternative routes because of 'abuses' when they
travelled across Wambu.116 Even after the Berlin Conference, Portuguese authorities
in Benguela did not want to disturb the prosperous trade and followed a noninterventionist policy. They wanted the African rulers to know that, as long as they
did not disturb trade by blocking the routes, the Portuguese would not interfere in
their internal conflicts.117
Things began to change in Lisbon and also in Angola in the context of the
Scramble for Africa. In central Angola, military conquest began against king
Ndunduma of Vyie in 1890. On his way to Viye the military commander Artur de
Paiva (according to his own report) sent a threatening message to Wambu where
people were said to be gathering for war. The soma decided not to confront the
Portuguese troops that crossed his lands.118 When in 1896 the capitão-mor of
Mbalundu attacked and burned the ombala, the Portuguese still did not dare to attack
Wambu, despite complains about the latter's 'rebellious attitude'. In 1899, there was
again alarming news about a supposed mobilization by the soma of Wambu against
Delgado, Ao sul, I, 320.
Already in 1852, several assaults led Silva Porto to resume negotiations with the
Mbalundu soma to open a route from Viye to Catumbela across Mbalundu. Santos, Nos
caminhos, 82.
Secretário de Governo de Benguela to Teixeira da Silva, 13 June 1888, in Delgado, Ao
Sul, I, 627.
See Artur de Paiva, Artur de Paiva (Lisbon 1938), I, 196.
the Portuguese.119 Benguela was aware of its lack of control over that small state and
began plans to subdue it.120
For some reason, Wambu was considered too dangerous to confront and not a
merchant-friendly polity. Only a few European traders, producing sweet potato
alcohol, were scattered throughout its territory. But while Portuguese rule was
imposed on Viye and on Mbalundu in the 1890s, complaints against Wambu chiefs'
'arrogance' did not prompt military action.121 The campaign of 1902, launched
against a Mbalundu revolt, was used by the Governor of Benguela to carry out his
plan of conquering Wambu against the opinion of the Governor-General, who was
more worried about rebellion in other areas and about reports of Portuguese
merchants' abuses on the plateau generating more rebellion. Governor Moutinho,
supporting Benguela merchants, considered that Wambu's military importance and
defiant attitude needed a definitive solution.122
Colonial military advances
By the late nineteenth century, the pressure from political and economic sectors in
Portugal and Angola for effective control of the Benguela hinterland was mounting.
Correspondence from capitão-mor Cravid to Governador de Benguela during 1899.
ANA, Avulsos, Caixas Bailundo.
In April 1901, Governor of Benguela Teixeira Moutinho forwarded to Chefe do Estado
Maior a note from the Bailundo capitão-mor, in January, about preparations for war in
Wambu and Ciyaka, mentioning the famous Samakaka (see below). AHM, Secção Angola,
Caixa 7, Doc 3.
In May 1898, Bailundo captain-major Cravid explained to Benguela that he could not
take a population census because there were places 'and not just a few, where the
[Portuguese] authority did not reach and their inhabitants live independent from that
authority'. 'Answer to Circular 502/97', ANA, Caixas, Bailundo. In August 1899, the
Governor of Benguela wrote that Wambu threatened trade and admitted that in the Bailundo
region Portuguese rule was 'rather fictitious'. Governador de Distrito de Benguela to
Secretário Geral do Governo, 11 August 1899. ANA, Avulsos, Caixas, Bailundo.
Both Governors published their version of the events. See Francisco Cabral Moncada, A
Campanha do Bailundo em 1902 (Luanda, 1903); Teixeira Moutinho, Em Legítima Defesa.
Resposta ao Livro (1ª edição) do Exmo. Snr. Conselheiro Cabral Moncada Intitulado A
Campanha do Bailundo (Lisbon 1904). Benguela merchants protested in newspapers against
their fellow merchants in the interior being responsible for the revolt and being put to trial
after the war. Some articles, in fact confirming the existence of the slave trade, were
republished: A revolta do Bailundo e os Conselhos de Guerra de Benguella (Lisbon, 1903).
Ivory, bees wax and wild rubber had proved to be profitable substitutes for the slave
trade. The exports of forced labour to the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe were
rising. The fact that most of the commerce depended on long-distance caravans
meant that it depended on the good-will of African rulers who had to be convinced to
accept the circulation of caravans and to allow the recruitment of porters. Peace or
war between African states, as well as the often troubled transition between one king
and his successor, had also always impacted on trade. Portuguese authorities and
commercial agents sometimes took sides, helping one candidate against another, but
usually they had to wait and see, having little power to impose their will. But as rival
European powers developed plans to carve out colonial empires in Africa, Portugal
became more anxious about their interest in long-established (or imagined)
Portuguese areas of influence. European diplomacy overlooked Portugal's so-called
'historical rights' and the Berlin Conference in 1884-5 was more concerned with
guaranteeing free trade in the lower Congo. What is now eastern Angola was not on
the table and it was open to inter-European competition. The Portuguese still
intended to extend their Angola colony towards the upper Zambezi but that would
imply either the political collaboration or the military subjugation of the Ovimbundu
kingdoms, mainly Viye and Mbalundu.123
In 1890, a small Portuguese military expedition crossing Viye territory was
ordered by soma Ndunduma to leave. The column commanders adopted a defiant
attitude. Silva Porto tried to act as peacemaker but both sides disregarded his advice
and, unable to deal with the situation, he committed suicide. The Portuguese military
force had to retreat to Mbalundu and the pretext for a full-scale military intervention
was found. After reorganizing and reinforcing their troops and logistics with Boers
See Malyn Newitt, Portugal in Africa: The Last Hundred Years (London, 1981), 24-33.
For more development on Portugal and the Scramble for Africa, see Valentim Alexandre,
'Nação e Império', in Bethencourt and Chaudhuri, História da Expansão, vol. 4, 114-32;
Nuno Severiano Teixeira, 'Colónias e colonização portuguesa na cena internacional (18851930)', in idem, 494-520.
from Huila, the Portuguese invaded Viye.124 The kingdom was not prepared for war
and Ndunduma had to flee his ombala (capital) which was destroyed. According to
missionary sources, Protestant missionaries convinced Ndunduma to surrender 'to
avoid further slaughter'.125 The king was deported to the Cape Verde islands and his
'successor' appointed by the Portuguese captain-major.126
The conquest of Viye did not immediately alter the situation in Mbalundu
where Ekwikwi reigned until his death in 1893. The royal ombala, on top of a hill
dominated the small fortified premises that Ekwikwi had allowed the Portuguese to
build, in a position practically indefensible. But in April 1896 they had a pretext to
launch a military attack to the ombala, in fact already authorized by the governor of
Angola. The new king, Numa (after Katiavala who succeeded Ekwikwi), decided to
threaten the Portuguese position with a concentration of people in an aggressive
mood, with chants and insults. The Mbalundu soma obviously miscalculated the
Portuguese reaction and their attack took him by surprise. He fled to Mbimbi, were
he was wounded in a later combat.127 The ombala was burned and the Portuguese
denied Numa's successor the right to rebuilt and live there. The kingdom of
Mbalundu formally ceased to exist and became part of the Portuguese colony. It was
only after the 1902 war, however, that conquest could be considered accomplished.
This time, the Portuguese also destroyed the small but defiant kingdom of Wambu.
In the early 1880s, about 300 Boers from South Africa came to southern Angola where
they soon developed the transportation business. One of their ox cart roads opened during
the Viye campaign crossed the place later occupied by the city of Huambo.
Childs, Umbundu Kinship, 211, note 5. Childs, following an official 1892 report,
wrongly assumed that Mbalundu was also occupied. As noted before, the appointment of a
captain-major did not mean submission to the colonial state.
For a detailed official report, see Paiva, Artur de Paiva, I, 193-299. For an eyewitness
account from Joaquim Guilherme (Chindander), a mestiço interpreter and merchant from Viye,
see Alexandre Malheiro, Chronicas do Bihé, (Lisbon, 1903), 115-30. See also Pélissier,
História das campanhas, II, 69-74; Heywood, Contested Power, 23-6.
In August 1896, Captain-major Teixeira da Silva justified the attack accusing Numa of
conspiring with other chiefs 'of the Nano' against the Portuguese presence. ANA, Avulsos,
Caixas, Bailundo.
The 1902-1904 war
The war popularized as 'the Bailundo war' is relatively well documented. Based on a
variety of sources, historians have established the main causes, the chronology of the
events and the outcome of the conflict, although interpretation and conclusions
diverge.128A number of reports, newspaper articles and books were published soon
after the war, expressing contradictory views of its main causes and military
operations. Moreover, both Catholic and Protestant missionaries in Mbalundu and
adjoining regions observed the campaign and sometimes were directly involved, as
when the Catholic Mission provided two guides who led the Portuguese troops to the
camp of the war leader Mutu-ya-Kevela.129 Archival sources reveal the extension of
the military repression of real or supposed rebels, which stretched as far as Bié and
In 1901 many signs of imminent conflict were present on the plateau.131 The
trigger for the outbreak of war the following year was apparently a debt of rum
bought for the funeral ceremonies of the old soma Hundungulu. He had been in
office since 1898, had been in prison in 1899, accused by Captain-major Cravid of
trying to organize a revolt together with Wambu, but had been sent again to his
ombala in 1901 by military inspector Massano de Amorim.132 The new captainmajor, Azevedo, tried to force the payment of the rum debt to the traders, the
situation became tense and isolated Portuguese traders were assaulted. One of the
See René Pélissier, História das campanhas, II, 79-101; Heywood, Contested Power, 2830; Douglas Wheeler and Diana Christensen, 'To rise with one mind: The Bailundu war of
1902', in Franz Heimer (ed.), Social Change in Angola (Munique, 1973), 53-92. This much
quoted article provides a good list of published sources but, as other authors noted, it is not
reliable in many details and it can be a 'disappointing analysis which often flies in the face
of the very evidence': Clarence-Smith, 'Slavery', 218 n. 31.
Report of Pais Brandão, AHM, Box 7, File 21, p. 63. Keiling, Quarenta Anos, 65-74.
See AHM, Angola, Box 7, Files 10, 13, 21 and 22.
For the enquiry ordered by the Governor-General, see 'special mission' of Captain
Massano de Amorim to Bailundo and Bié (1901), AHM, Angola, Box 7, File 3. See also
Jean-Luc Vellut, 'Garenganze/Katanga-Bié-Benguela and beyond: The cycle of rubber and
slaves at the turn of the 20th century', Portuguese Studies Review, 19, 1-2 (2011), 133-152.
Portugal em África (1902), 192-192B.
dignitaries of the Mbalundu court, Mutu-ya-Kevela, refused to comply with the
captain-major's orders to go to the fortress and left to get supporters and allies in and
outside Mbalundu.
In May, the captain-major lured the new soma Kalandula and his dignitaries to
the fortress and put them in prison. From the ombala people responded with gunshots
and the Portuguese assaulted and burned it. Mutu-ya-Kevela tried to block
Portuguese communications by interrupting circulation on the main routes. Violence
escalated and spread to many areas of the plateau: European merchants' houses and
plantations (mostly of sweet potato to produce alcohol) were destroyed or sacked and
some were caught, killed or treated as slaves. Most of them escaped to the coast, to
Viye or to the Mbalundu fortress.
In June, Governor-General Cabral Moncada, finally convinced that he had a
war to fight and not a minor skirmish, ordered a large-scale military action to subdue
the insurgents. As noted before, the Governor of Benguela had a slightly different
agenda and gave priority to the conquest of Wambu. The military campaign,
deployed during the dry season, was the biggest Portuguese military operation in
Angola to that point, involving three different columns coming from the north
(Libolo), the southwest (from Benguela through Caconda) and the west (from
Benguela through Ciyaka).
Mutu-ya-Kevela was killed on 4 August fighting the soldiers of Pais Brandão,
the commander of the Libolo column which first reached Mbalundu.133 The revolt
there was over but the Portuguese military campaign went on, with 'mopping up
operations' over a vast area. In 1904 another smaller campaign took Mbimbi, the last
For Pais Brandão report (21 October 1902), AHM, Angola, Box 7, Doc. 21.
refuge of war leader Samakaka, from Wambu, probably a 'robber baron', whose
identity has been disputed and who became a popular hero.134
In September 1902 the southern column, led by the Governor of Benguela
himself, defeated the Wambu resistance after ten days of fighting at Kahala, Kisala
and the rocks of Kandumbu.135 The Portuguese attack on Wambu had no immediate
justification in the Bailundo revolt, except for fear of contagion. The soma of
Wambu, Livonge, did not directly support the rebellion of Mutu-ya-Kevela, even if
some olosekulu from Wambu, namely Kito and Samakaka, did so.
The 1902 'Bailundo war' completed the Portuguese conquest of the central
plateau. But wars were not rare on the plateau and the burning to the ground of the
capitals of Viye (1890) and Mbalundu (1896) were still recent events. It is plausible
that the Ovimbundu experience led them to compare the 1902 war to previous
conflicts, when military defeat would be followed by a period of accommodation,
undoubtedly difficult but with no substantial control of their lives by the Portuguese.
Indeed, the forced labour and disguised slave trade that afflicted some of them was
alleviated in the aftermath of this war because they were considered the true causes
of the conflict.
The decline in rubber prices and its impact on the trade-based economy was an
important cause of the revolt: it reduced the benefits of the Ovimbundu and pushed
the Portuguese inland and to the slave trade to compensate for the losses in the
rubber trade. But the rubber trade recovered, before its final collapse a decade later.
Having said that, there is no doubt that for Wambu this was 'the war': after several
days of fighting, the capital was destroyed, king Livonge was killed with many of his
See Bello de Almeida, Operações Militares de 1904 na Região do Bimbe (Bailundo)
(Lisbon, 1944). Decades later, Huambo's newspaper still discussed Samakaka's identity and
actions. See Voz do Planalto (hereafter, Voz), more than a dozen articles between October
1953 and February 1954.
Reports published in Câmara Municipal de Nova Lisboa, Documentos para a História do
Huambo, (Nova Lisboa, 1948). See also Keiling, Quarenta Anos, 91-4.
men and many villages were burned to the ground. The Va-Wambu had to accept
Portuguese rule and to pay a heavy tribute in goods and cattle, and for the first time
Portuguese fortresses, small but symbolic of their defeat, were erected in Wambu
It was the Atlantic slave trade that first drew central Angola into the world market.
Unlike many other regions of Atlantic Africa, the slave trade from Angola increased
in the early nineteenth century and declined only after Brazil enforced the import ban
in 1850. Despite some on-going smuggling of slaves, from that point 'legitimate
commerce' developed with a variety of products. Through the growing dependence
of political elites on foreign commodities and foreign allies, those trades paved the
way for the Portuguese colonial conquest. In this, the history of the region looks like
a typical case of active African response to the world demand for commodities such
as slaves, ivory, wax and rubber, meeting with some short-term success, but
ultimately facilitating African submission to colonial rule.
The impact of external trade on local production has not yet been assessed, but
agriculture is likely to be the sector where that impact was greatest, as we will see in
Chapter 2. Greater social stratification resulted from differing access to foreign
commodities; in the late nineteenth century, at least in some places, cloth, ornaments
and even firearms had a great diffusion among the participants in the long-distance
trade, their kin and servants.
Some kings on the plateau alternated intensified commercial links with the
Portuguese with raids to plunder their outposts. The power of those kings against
potential rivals and their capacity for keeping the loyalty of their aristocrats became
Fort 'Cabral Moncada' at Kisala (Quissala) controlled areas of Wambu and Kandumbu;
Fort 'Teixeira de Sousa' controlled Sambu, Kalende and Moma.
more dependent on foreign trade than ever before. Their wealth also depended
greatly on gifts, taxes and fines extracted from foreigners in their lands and
sometimes they promoted their presence, as Ekwikwi did in Mbalundu with traders
and missionaries.
In the late nineteenth century, the transition from established commercial
partnerships and diplomatic relations to military confrontation and colonial conquest
was inevitable in the context of the new European imperialism, helped by new
weaponry and transportation technologies. Viye and Mbalundu, the more important
trading partners of the Portuguese, were the first to fall. The Portuguese aims in the
1902-1904 war went beyond the repression of the 'rebels' around Bailundo, however
shocking the news of white traders enslaved by the insurgents. It provided the
opportunity to impose control over the remaining independent polities such as
Wambu, Ciyaka and other smaller African chiefs still able to reject Portuguese
demands. In Wambu and neighbouring areas, the 1902 war inaugurated colonial rule.
The next chapter will put these events in the broader context of Portuguese imperial
politics and will discuss the implications of colonial conquest for the region where
the city of Huambo was founded in 1912.
The city of Huambo and the network of smaller towns on Angola's central plateau
prompted decisive and irreversible changes in local societies. However, the direction
of future evolution was not obvious in the first decade after the Portuguese conquest
of the Wambu kingdom. An immediate change was the loss of political autonomy for
African chiefdoms, which collapsed or became anaemic as the colonial state
apparatus collected taxes, extracted labour and repressed dissent. The old Umbundu
society was also being undermined by the impact of Christianity, as discussed in
Chapter 5. But in many aspects, namely trade and labour recruitment, there was no
straight line dividing the recent past (before the 1902 campaign) and the present as it
was in the 1910s.
The coming of Republicans to power in Portugal in 1910, however, prompted
measures against slavery and slave-like labour conditions in colonial Angola. Norton
de Matos, the governor (and High Commissioner in the 1920s) whose name is
usually associated with fighting old practices, produced legislation to regulate labour
conditions and punished employers who did not comply with it. But at a local level
the changes were not so evident and mixed messages came from the administration:
the expansion of road building (another of Norton tenure's hallmarks) was at the
expense of local unpaid and forced labour. And despite some efforts after 1910,
subsequent legislation justified compulsory and forced labour, making only small
changes to the 1899 Labour Code.1
José Norton de Matos was appointed Governor-General in April 1912. In May he was
initiated as Freemason and would become Grand Master in the 1930s. In his 1912 initiation
he chose the symbolic name of Danton, commiting himself to the abolition of slavery.
Armando Malheiro da Silva, 'General Norton de Matos (1867-1955) Aspectos maiores de
um perfil histórico-biográfico: o militar, o colonialista e o democrata', Africana Studia, 6
(2003), 176. Norton's political career and ideas are reflected in his own several essays and
This chapter will discuss the background to Huambo's foundation in September
1912. To put that event in context, the evolution of Portuguese imperial politics will
be outlined, stressing continuities in colonial doctrines through political regime
changes. The chapter will also scrutinize some of the changes that turned
independent Africans into imperial subjects and then into 'natives', that is, noncitizens in their own land.
Portuguese imperial expansion and colonial politics from the 1880s to c. 1920
The 'third Portuguese empire' emerging in the middle of the nineteenth century took
many decades to develop its distinctive geographic, economic and political features.2
In Angola, it was only during the 1920s that the last 'rebels' were subdued and the
frontiers with Southwest Africa (present-day Namibia) and the Belgian Congo
definitely established, in 1926 and 1927 respectively. But by the end of the
nineteenth century, military conquest or diplomatic and commercial pressure had
greatly enlarged Angola. Many parts of new expanded colony had long been
exporting their products to Portuguese ports and inland factories and were part of old
mercantile networks. Others regions in a similar position, however, were still
independent or were incorporated into neighbouring colonies. Here, as elsewhere in
Africa, international disputes and diplomatic manoeuvres associated with colonial
partition tell us little about the situation on the ground. Inside this expanding space,
between the 1880s and the 1920s, the Portuguese state, through its colonial
administration, oscillated between, on the one hand, indifference or minimal
memoirs. In English, see Douglas Wheeler, 'José Norton de Matos (1867-1955)', in L. H.
Gann & Peter Duignan (eds.), African Proconsuls: European Governors in Africa (London,
1978), 445-63. Portuguese researcher Helena Janeiro is currently working on Norton's
political biography.
See Clarence-Smith, Third Portuguese Empire, 81-115. Clarence-Smith popularized the
expression in his book's title, but it originated among Portuguese politicians by the end of
the nineteenth century. Quirino Avelino de Jesus, 'Angola e Congo ou o Terceiro Império
Luzitano', Portugal em África, 1, 1 (March 1894), 3.
intervention and, on the other, a prolific legislation that sought to control every
aspect of the economy and the population in the colony.
In areas of established Portuguese influence, nonetheless, past interactions with
African societies and the old ways of slave trading went on influencing colonial rule
well into the twentieth century. Northern and central Angola are striking examples of
that, while eastern and some southern zones had been less touched by European
influence. In common with other colonial powers, Portugal had to adapt to diverse
circumstances, and colonial policies were not the same in zones of European
settlement as in those virtually without settlers.
During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, two contradictory tendencies
broadly characterized Portuguese thought about the future of the African territories.
One argued that Portugal, having neither the resources nor the men to make the
empire worthwhile, should sell all or part of the territories it held in Africa. The other
insisted that Africa should substitute for the loss of Brazil by expanding those areas
where a Portuguese presence or influence had existed for centuries. An intermediate
position accepted the selling or concession to foreign capital of large parts of
Portuguese colonies but considered Angola untouchable (intangível), reserved for
Portuguese commerce, capital investment and settlement.3
As both Clarence-Smith and Alexandre argue, there was considerable
difference between political debate in Lisbon and colonial reality. In Angola, the old
transatlantic slave trade had ended but the slave-based labour system persisted, with
slaves turned into libertos and these into serviçais. The decline of the ivory and the
orchilia (dye lichen) trades in the 1860s was soon compensated with an expanding
See Valentim Alexandre, 'A questão colonial no Portugal oitocentista', in V. Alexandre
and Jill Dias (eds.), O Império Africano 1825-1890 (Lisbon, 1998), 119-126. His concluding
section is a very good synthesis of the difficult emergence of the third empire 'from the ruins
of the luso-brazilian system' and on Portuguese imperial thought and action. Also V.
Alexandre, 'Configurações políticas', in Bethencourt and Chaudhuri História da Expansão,
wild rubber trade from the 1870s and the development of coffee production in the
Luanda hinterland and on São Tomé island. The establishment of European
settlements on Angola's southernmost coast caused a new development in trade,
alcohol production and, later on, fishing and related activities, where slave-like
labour conditions endured.4 Despite some interest in colonial markets among
Portuguese wine producers and textile industrialists, Brazil was still much more
important than Africa in the Portuguese economy. Traders in Lisbon re-exported
orchilia, ivory and beeswax but it was the rubber trade which made the Angolan
market important again. As for Portuguese colonial politicians, 'the rising tide of the
scramble for Africa, allied with world-wide economic recession, rapidly pushed them
back towards protectionism, conquest and administrative centralization'.5
The Scramble for Africa revealed that Portugal could not compete in economic
or military terms with the main European powers. Yet it had at least two advantages:
an established position in Africa from which to expand and its old alliance with
Britain, which could be mobilized to prevent aggressive moves from Germany,
France or the Belgian King Leopold. The British alliance sometimes turned sour but
in the end played in favour of the Portuguese empire.6 In the 1870s, imperial dreams
of economic advance were associated in Angola mainly with the wild rubber trade, in
Mozambique with oilseeds and in São Tomé with coffee plantations. In response to
international interest in African territories, a Geographical Society was created in
Lisbon (Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa) in 1875. The Society cut across party
boundaries and became an important lobby for colonial expansion.7
See William G. Clarence-Smith, Slaves, Peasants and Capitalists in Southern Angola,
1840-1926 (Cambridge, 1979); Afonso Vilela, A Pesca e Industrias Derivadas no Distrito
de Mossamedes 1921-1922 (Porto, 1923).
Clarence-Smith Third Portuguese Empire, 77.
On Portugal and the Scramble for Africa, see Alexandre, 'Nação', and Teixeira, 'Colónias'.
See Ângela Guimarães, Uma Corrente do Colonialismo Português: a Sociedade de
Geografia de Lisboa 1875-1895 (Lisbon, 1984). Boletim da Sociedade de Geographia de
Lisboa [hereafter BSGL] is an essencial source for Portuguese colonial history.
In the 1870s, Minister Andrade Corvo represented those who wanted to open
Portuguese African colonies to foreign commerce and capital, advocating European
cooperation. His moderate imperial expansionism envisaged military campaigns as a
last resort, and tried to enlarge Portuguese influence through commerce and
diplomatic efforts with African authorities. He was also in favour of stronger action
against slave and semi-slave labour in the colonies (a new abolition law in 1875,
never fully applied, suppressed all forced labour). His plans for more international
economic presence in the colonies faced strong resistance, as expected, and not only
from the colonial bourgeoisie and from Lisbon merchants benefiting from protected
markets in Angola and São Tomé. Opinions against making any concession in central
Africa were widespread and becoming more vocal and the anti-Corvo groups
boycotted many of the minister's measures, including bilateral treaties with Britain.8
In 1884-5 the Berlin Conference defined frontiers in the lower Kongo and
established a Congo Free Trade Zone including part of northern Angola, where
Portuguese goods had to meet foreign competition without any protectionist taxes.
Portugal was granted a huge territory in Africa but the dominant domestic discourse
claimed that the great powers had 'robbed' the Portuguese of (imaginary) colonial
possessions and still conspired to take over the rest of them on the grounds that
Portugal was unable to exploit their resources.9
When in January 1890 a British ultimatum forced Portugal to withdraw a small
expeditionary force from Shire river, making it clear that southern-central Africa was
reserved for British interests, a major political crisis added to an almost collapsing
economy. Subsequent events showed how imperial and nationalist ideology could at
Alexandre 'A questão', 100-107. Andrade Corvo was Minister of Foreign Affairs (1871-7)
and of the Navy and Overseas (1875-7 and 1879). See Valentim Alexandre, 'The colonial
empire', in António Costa Pinto (ed.) Modern Portugal (Palo Alto, 1998), 41-59; and 'The
Portuguese empire: Ideology and economics', in Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau (ed.), From
Slave Trade to Empire: Europe and the Colonization of Black Africa, 1780s-1880s (London,
2004), 110-132.
See Newitt, Portugal in Africa, 32-33.
times be stronger than the economic rationale behind colonial expansion. The antiultimatum reaction fostered a wave of new protectionist measures and almost ignored
the persistence of slavery and similar forms of labour use. Regulations on obligatory
cash wage payments to serviçais and restricting corporal punishment had no great
This reignited Portuguese imperialism, as Alexandre argues, brought
something new to the old 'Brazil in Africa' dream. Colonial arguments were used in
domestic disputes and mobilized part of the urban working class and underclass,
blending nationalism with unrealistic visions of empire amongst an ill-informed
public. Poor economic and political results at home were somehow compensated by a
maximal view of the 'rights of Portugal' in central Africa including all the Lower
Kongo and most of the Zambezi Basin, linking the territories controlled by the
Portuguese in Angola and Mozambique. Scientific explorations, military conquest
and 'punitive expeditions' against independent or only nominally 'vassal' African
states, tried to fulfill the dream. The new colonialism ended the already moribund
'ancien régime' of relative colonial autonomy in which resident settlers and old local
elites of African origin were both included in the military and civil hierarchies of the
state apparatus. In Angola it also kept foreign capital at bay until the beginning of the
twentieth century.
In the last decades of the century, economic protectionism, military campaigns,
administrative reforms and diplomatic games were all part of the effort to keep
Portugal in Africa with a much bigger share than its economic and political influence
indicated. Following the shift in European colonialism in the 1890s, Aires de Ornelas,
Mouzinho de Albuquerque, António Enes and Eduardo Costa (governing Angola in
1903-1904), among others, formulated colonial thinking that would remain influential
See Clarence-Smith, 'Slavery'.
for decades. So-called 'pacification' (conquest or military repression), administrative
decentralization and the development of European settlement should be the basis for
Portuguese empire in Africa. Each colony would need specific legislation, the Governor
or Commissioner should have wider powers but the settlers' representatives should have
their say, namely on the economy. In Angola this colonial doctrine influenced Governor
Paiva Couceiro (1907-1909) who tried a series of administrative reforms, hampered by
military activity and temporarily suspended by the change of regime in Portugal in
The Portuguese Republic was not a rupture in most aspects of imperial ideology
and colonial doctrine, with Republican governors of Angola in many aspects following
paths opened by Costa and Couceiro.12 But the coming to power of liberal politicians,
many of them freemasons, translated into a vigorous position against forced labour,
although theory and practice were hard to match and those in charge of Angola's
administration faced resistance from colonial capitalists and from settlers whose
economy was based on slave-like labour.13
The relationship between colonialism and capitalism in this period is another
aspect of the continuity or/and rupture discussion. Clarence-Smith and others have
noted how the reasons behind Portuguese colonialism were often distorted and its
ineptitude exaggerated to the point of considering it an exceptional case. He argues
See his government report and main work on colonial matters: Henrique Paiva Couceiro,
Angola (dois anos de governo. Junho 1907 - Junho 1909) (Lisbon, 1948) (2nd ed.). See also
Newitt, Portugal in Africa, 175-7.
The 2010 Republic centenary prompted fresh discussion. See Cláudia Castelo, 'O
nacionalismo imperial no pensamento republicano', in José M. Sardica (ed.), A Primeira
República e as Colónias Portuguesas (Lisbon, 2010), 29-47; Cristina Nogueira da Silva, 'As
"normas científicas da colonização moderna" e a administração civil das colónias', idem, 87107. Also Maria C. Neto, 'A República no seu estado colonial: combater a escravatura,
estabelecer o indigenato', Ler História, 59 (2010), 205-25.
José Capela, O Imposto de Palhota e a Introdução do Modo de Produção Capitalista nas
Colónias (Porto, 1977), 87 ff. In Angola, apart from porterage and some urban jobs, the
establishment of waged labour was slower than in Mozambique. See also Douglas L
Wheeler, 'The Forced Labour 'system' in Angola, 1903-1947: Reassessing origins and
persistence in the context of colonial consolidation, economic growth and reform failures',
in Centro de Estudos Africanos da Universidade do Porto, Trabalho Forçado Africano.
Experiências coloniais comparadas (Porto, 2006), 367-93.
that while 'the relative backwardness of Portuguese society did introduce some
variations in the colonial pattern', the similarities with other Central African colonies
in the beginning of the twentieth century 'are more striking than the differences'.14
While sharing Clarence-Smith's critique of a supposed 'un-economic
imperialism', Alexandre nonetheless diverges from him in underlining political and
ideological motivation for Portuguese involvement in Africa. Alexandre's impressive
body of work on the Portuguese empire after Brazilian independence shows how, to
the end of the nineteenth century, the colonial issue played a decisive role in
domestic affairs and in defining Portugal's place in the international arena.15 The
less-known work of Gregory Pirio and Adelino Torres on the Portuguese empire also
helps to understand the political economy of Portuguese colonialism in the beginning
of the twentieth century.16 All those authors, despite their differences, agree that in
Portugal and its colonies there was not a homogeneous ruling class and that interests
of diverse bourgeois groups sometimes clashed over colonial policies. Contradictory
interests existed between northern and southern Portugal bourgeoisies, rural and
industrial sectors, or metropolitan and colonial bourgeoisies. Torres goes further and
distinguished in Angola the coastal bourgeoisie from the hinterland bourgeoisie
(burguesia do litoral and burguesia do sertão).17
The period from the 1880s to the 1920s was one of renewed mercantilism,
characterized by protectionist tariffs and the lack of a developed plantation or
industrial sector. It was also called 'proto-capitalist' since capitalism strictu sensu
would imply the generalization of waged labour, a developed domestic market, the
Clarence-Smith, 'Capital accumulation', 163.
See, for instance, Alexandre, 'A questão colonial'; idem, 'The Portuguese empire'.
Gregory Roger Pirio, 'Commerce, industry and empire: The making of modern Portuguese
colonialism in Angola and Mozambique, 1890-1914', PhD Thesis, University of California,
Los Angeles, 1982. Torres' thesis (1981) was partially published as O império Português
Entre o Real e o Imaginário (Lisbon, 1991).
Torres' work on Angola is sometimes illuminating but his denying of a capitalist economy
in the colony while recognizing two 'bourgeoisie' segments is controversial.
supremacy of a monetary system over bartering and the end of money substitutes still
existing in Angola. In fact, those requirements, though in a distorted way, were
partially fulfilled in most of Angola in the 1920s and the colonial taxation system
was decisive in that transition.18 José Capela followed that line in his study on 'hut
tax' (imposto de palhota) in Portuguese colonies in the early twentieth century. Based
mostly on Mozambique's history, he considered that changes were real and
mercantilism gave way to extensive production of cash crops and raw materials and
that the hut tax was a 'highly important tool in the introduction of a capitalist mode of
production' in Angola and Mozambique.19
Discussion of capitalist development in the colonies is probably another case of
the half-empty or half-full argument and more attention is needed to differences
between colonies and among different regions inside each colony. Mozambique and
Angola followed different paths and not only because of the involvement of different
European partners. In Angola, slavery or slave-like labour persisted, as did the trade
in non-agricultural African products (rubber, ivory, beeswax). Also, plantations took
longer to develop, after some earlier failures. There was also a later and lesser
involvement of Angolan labour in the mining sector and in working abroad. African
peasant agriculture played a much greater economic role in Angola than in
Mozambique throughout the colonial period and was responsible for a substantial
part of the country's exports. While at a macroeconomic level, mercantilism or 'neomercantilism' was still dominant in the early twentieth century, market-orientated
economic changes did occur and most of the population played their part, as
autonomous producers or as labourers, in a new colonial economy.
On 'proto-capitalism', see Adelino Torres, 'As empresas e a economia angolana de Norton
de Matos a Vicente Ferreira (o protocapitalismo dos anos 20)', in O Estado Novo das
Origens ao Fim da Autarcia 1926-1959 (Lisbon, 1987), 2, 101.
Capela, O imposto, 25 and 93-4.
In central Angola, commerce and not industry or plantations went on being the
settlers' main activity, but control of transportation and local trade moved from
Africans to Europeans. Waged labour (free or forced) became increasingly
important, although far from being families' main subsistence resource. Taxation
created a monstrous web where people were caught in a way very different from the
old system. Money was added to the established control of people, land and cattle
through kinship as a generator of social stratification both in rural and urban areas.
Playing against a clear move to a capitalist economy in Angola at the turn of
the century was alcohol production and trade. In central Angola, spirits and other
alcoholic beverages had long been an essential part of trade, becoming even more
important during the rubber boom of 1880 to 1910. Most Portuguese traders living in
the hinterland of Benguela and Moçâmedes, as well as many Africans, produced
aguardente ('firewater' made from sweet potatoes or sugar cane, according to the
area), a flourishing industry even after the 1901-1903 upheavals. Torres's analysis
correctly demonstrates the role of Angolan alcohol until 1911 in the maintenance of
the old mercantilist economy.20 On the one hand, it undermined the possible growth
of a plantation sector (for instance, cotton was abandoned in southern Angola during
the height of the alcohol and rubber trade). On the other hand, alcohol was a money
substitute and acted as the available 'capital' in the Portuguese colony and
neighbouring areas, delaying the transition to a proper monetary economy.21
Anyway, technological advances and many methods of European capitalism were
normally not transposed to the colonies until late: colonial states used or allowed
labour coercion and massive recruitment to do the heavy work that modern
Norton's Provincial Ordinance of 26 March 1913 reinforced Decree 27 May 1911 against
aguardente production and prohibited the selling of any alcohol inside or near farms
Torres, O império, 231-56. Fernando Pimentel, Investigação Comercial na Província de
Angola Realizada por Iniciativa das Fábricas de Fiação e Tecidos d'Algodão do Norte do
País em 1902-1903 (Porto, 1903), gives a first-hand testimony. He was collecting commercial
information for northern Portugal textile industrialists.
machinery was doing in Europe; they denied African workers the rights their
European counterparts had secured; and they exploited local producers in a different
way than in Europe. The weakness of the Portuguese economy, moreover, arguably
made things worse for colonized Africans for a longer period.
Clarence-Smith saw the years of the Republic (from 1910 to the mid-1920s) as
a period of imperial decline: decline in Portuguese exports, decline in re-exports of
colonial production and collapse of the public financial sector in the colonies.22
Alexandre argues that this picture needs some qualification, since decline in colonial
trade did not mean imperial decline in all senses. Those were the years of the final
advance of the military conquest and of the transition from military to civil
administration in the hinterland.23 From the African point of view, this period was
certainly not one of Portuguese imperial decline. Rather, it was a time of military
campaigns;24 the construction of railways and roads, which facilitated European
control, settlement and economic hegemony; the concession of great part of
northeastern Angola to a company which extracted diamonds and consolidated
colonial rule in a still semi-independent area; and the extension of taxation and
forced labour recruitment. All that reinforced as never before the idea of European
invincibility and prompted many chiefs and village headmen to submit to the new
In the first two decades of the twentieth century Angola also registered an
advance of what could be called 'settler colonialism'. At least some local
entrepreneurs and republican groups envisaged the colony as an autonomous country
Clarence-Smith, Third Portuguese Empire, 116-45.
See Valentim Alexandre, 'Situações coloniais II. O ponto de viragem: As campanhas de
ocupação (1890-1930)', in Bethencourt and Chaudhuri, História da Expansão, 182-208. For
a good synthesis of this period, see Aida Freudenthal, 'Angola', in Oliveira Marques (ed.), O
Império Africano 1890-1930 (Lisbon, 2001), 259-467.
Including one of unprecedented dimensions in 1915 against the still independent
Kwanyama, in the south, mobilizing metropolitan troops and also thousands of African
porters and conscript soldiers.
in the making. However, they were never strong enough successfully to challenge
Lisbon, either in economic or in political terms.25 The military coup of 28 May 1926
paved the way for the Estado Novo regime which put an end to decentralization
experiments tending to political autonomy. It aborted prospects of industrial
development and of budget control in the colony and, last but not least, suppressed
freedom of the press and of political organization even among Portuguese settlers,
leaving them with little leeway to develop any independent public opinion.26
But the empire's economy in those years was really not in good health. The
Portuguese Republic had to make the transition from a system based on the trade of
wild or semi-processed products secured by independent Africans to a system
supposedly centred on plantation and mining. The establishment of a plantation
sector (mostly owned by non-Portuguese companies) was visible in Mozambique,
where European merchant-settlers were never so important as they were in Angola.
Here, a true plantation sector developed slowly (with the exception of sugar cane)
and until the Second World War exports were heavily dependent on small African
producers who dominated in cotton, maize and oilseeds and had a great share in
coffee. The only great mining company was the diamond concessionary Diamang.
Cattle, exported live or killed for meat and hides, were mainly bought from African
owners. On Angola's central and southern coasts, the most important settler and
corporate sector was fishing industries.
See José de Macedo, Autonomia de Angola (Lisbon, 1988). Initially published in 1910, its
author was a socialist and federalist mason republican who came to Angola as director of A
Defeza de Angola, a newspaper involved in 1903 protests against serviçais exports to São
Tomé (see below). See also Fernando T. Pimenta, Angola, os Brancos e a Independência
(Porto, 2008), 71-136.
For a reaction against imperial politics following the 1926 coup, see Jornal de Benguela,
between June and December 1926. On 'settler colonialism', see Caroline Elkins and Susan
Pedersen, 'Introduction. Settler Colonialism: A concept and Its Uses', Elkins and Pedersen
(eds.), Settler Colonialism in the Twentieth Century: Projects, Practices, Legacies (London,
2005), 1-20.
Apart from further questions on capitalism in the Portuguese colonies, it is
important to acknowledge
the uneven impact of colonial rule and the regional variation in African
response. The pressures of taxation, forced labour and land alienation varied
widely from one area to another, and even within a single region. …. Colonial
conquest imposed the hegemony of the colonial state, but it did not create a
single society out of the many societies over which the Governor-General in
Luanda ruled. It is thus necessary to look more closely at the different regions
of Angola.27
In the region where the city of Huambo was to be built, agriculture and trade would
be the main activities for decades, with the ups and downs of maize production and
exports causing perennial discussions about prices, transportation, silage, labour
needs, and the necessary imported goods for trading with African producers.28 If the
creation of a great city was clearly a project of the colonial state dreaming of a steady
flow of white settlers, reality was rather different. The city's evolution in subsequent
years depended on its wide commercial connections and both production and trade
depended less on imperial planning than on Huambo's rural environment and on how
people in the central plateau responded to change.
From rubber traders to maize exporters
The impact of the 1902 conquest in Wambu and neighbouring zones was multiple and
far-reaching. Yet Portuguese merchants in the area were in a better position in the
immediate aftermath of the war than their counterparts in Mbalundu, which was
more seriously affected by rebels' actions. Commerce in Wambu, however, suffered
from the fact that many Africans had lost their economic wealth (namely cattle taken
as 'war tribute') and for a while avoided administrative centres and main routes in
Clarence-Smith, 'Capital accumulation', 184.
Concerns were frequently voiced through the Benguela newspapers and, from 1930
onwards, the Huambo newspaper, where milho (maize) often made front-page news.
order to escape labour and tax constraints.29 But even before the railroad boosted the
local economy, rubber trade from the east (and also wax) was important enough to
attract to the conquered Wambu a growing number of Portuguese traders.30 On the
African side, rubber collecting and trading was also the main business until its
collapse in 1912.31 That and the interdiction of alcohol production affected but did
not stop trade, with both Africans and Europeans moving to the next source of
income, maize. It would become (along with migrant labour) the main contribution
of central Angola to the colonial economy.
The importance of trade in the centuries preceding colonial occupation and its
overwhelming presence in historical sources has left agricultural developments
somewhat in the shadow.32 Yet, as noted in Chapter 2, the impact of the transAtlantic trade and the inland caravan trade on agriculture was huge. New crops,
mostly of American origin, became part of people's diet in central Africa well before
colonial rule, the most striking examples being cassava and maize, and Angola's
central plateau was no exception. Wars and refugees played their role but it was the
development of inter-regional and long-distance trade that stimulated agriculture, at
home villages and along caravan routes, to feed traders and porters and to exchange
for goods. Trade put the Ovimbundu (like the Imbangala or the Bazombo further
north) in touch with 'exotic' plants and consumption practices, through their own
travels and through foreigners coming to their lands.
Eyewitness Father Keiling claimed the number of inhabitants in the area fell after 1902,
partly due to the war but also because many people avoided roads and the railway. Luiz
Alfredo Keiling, Quarenta Anos, 90.
Norberto Gonzaga, Nova Lisboa: Alavanca do Futuro (Luanda, 1963), gives a nominal list
of 58 in 1910; only one, Manuel da Silva Freitas, was established before 1902. See also
Bastos, Monographia, 43.
In 1908, rubber was by far the leading Angolan export. See Couceiro, Angola, 439-41. The
Ciyaka, west of Wambu, were an example of African latecomers to long-distance trade
during the rubber boom, also trading in slaves and ivory. In 1911, Paulo Coimbra (also
Musili) and his Ciyaka group conducted one last caravan journey into Katanga. See
Schonberg-Lothholz, 'Die Karawanenreisen', 109-28.
See Vellut, 'Le bassin du Congo'; idem, 'L'économie internationale'.
Cassava, maize, tobacco, tomato, potatoes and other American newcomers to
the ecological conditions of central Angola enriched the agricultural landscape or
displaced the former staple foods. Changes were in general slow and adoption went
not without suspicion and hesitation. According to Magyar, in Viye by 1850 maize,
cassava, beans, peas, pumpkin, sweet potatoes (kará), a kind of peanuts and tobacco
were cultivated without restriction. But only poor people would eat potatoes, which
apparently had come from Benguela only recently. Fruit trees and garden vegetables
grown by Europeans were seen in Viye as not suitable for Africans.33
Until the end of the nineteenth century the old African crops were still in
evidence along with the American ones, depending on soils, water availability and
personal taste, but maize did have a major impact. Its importance as a subsistence
crop replacing local sorghum and millets (like asangu and oluku) and also as a cashcrop at least from the middle of the nineteenth century, is unique.34 Maize was
already cultivated in the Portuguese Cape Verde islands prior to 1540 and it was used
in São Tomé to feed slaves by the middle of the sixteenth century, by which time it
was certainly known in the Kongo kingdom. In the seventeenth century, with the
Portuguese colony established in Luanda and up the river Kwanza, commercial
networks and the waves of refugees from wars and enslavement most probably
introduced maize to the plateau south of the Kwanza.35
Magyar, Reisen, 299.
'Cash-crop' may sound anachronistic since cash was not involved, but maize surplus
production entered the barter trade (negócio de permuta). The importance of maize (epungu)
is evident in the richness of Umbundu vocabulary, with many names for it according to
colour, texture and eating forms. See the entry 'milho' in Grégoire Le Guennec and José
Francisco Valente, Dicionário Português-Umbundu (Luanda, 1972).
James McCann, Maize and Grace: Africa's Encounter with a New World Crop, 15002000, (London, 2005), 23-24. Orlando Ribeiro, 'Milho', in Joel Serrão (ed.), Dicionário da
História de Portugal (Porto, 1981), IV, 294-300. Maria Emília Madeira Santos and Maria
Manuel Torrão, 'Entre l'Amérique et l'Afrique, les îles du Cap-Vert et São Tomé: les
cheminements des milhos (mil, sorgho et maïs), in Monique Chastanet (ed.). Plantes et
paysages d’Afrique: une histoire à explorer, (Paris, 1998), 69-83.
McCann's hypothesis that the rapid acceptance of maize in many parts of the
world can be related to social instability and the need for an adaptable crop, quicker
than others to ripen, certainly makes sense considering the economic, political and
ecological history of central Angola after 1600. In fact, not only were warfare and
raids frequent, but long-distance trade caravans would have welcomed a fast growing
cereal that could also be eaten fresh as a vegetable. By the end of the nineteenth
century, sporadic droughts and the involvement of women and youngsters in
collecting and trading wild rubber can also help to explain how maize, particularly its
yellow varieties, became the main staple food. In Portuguese documents the yellow
variety was also called 'quimbundo maize', further proof of how long it had been
adopted; the other two mentioned were the 'cateta' (or catete) and the white maize.36
Agricultural systems and some aspects of rural life among the Ovimbundu
were thoroughly studied in the 1960s and 1970s mainly in the framework of rural
extension programs or other state initiatives after the outbreak of the liberation war in
1961. The agriculture surveys by Missão de Inquéritos Agrícolas de Angola (MIAA)
produced an extraordinary bulk of relevant information, but no consistent historical
research was done.37 However, it seems fair to assume that what was common
knowledge among Ovimbundu peasants in the middle of the twentieth century was
rooted in a more or less distant past, the most important exception being the plough
As noted before, by then quimbundo referred to Umbundu speaking peoples. A report
from Caconda in 1887 revealed maize's importance in African agriculture all over the socalled 'Distrito de Benguela'. E. R. Vieira da Costa Botelho, 'Agricultura no Districto de
Benguella', BSGL, 5 (1888), 255-7. He was attempting to introduce around Caconda
varieties of white maize.
MIAA produced 27 volumes. The central plateau was 'Zone 24'. See Missão de Inquéritos
Agrícolas de Angola, Recenseamento Agrícola de Angola. XXIX – Planalto Central (Zona
agrícola nº 24). Primeira Parte: Agricultura Tradicional. (Luanda, 1971). Shorter important
texts by MIAA technicians were included in Franz-Wilhelm Heimer (ed.), Social Change in
Angola (Munich, 1973). A rare study on Angola's nineteenth-century agricultural history is
Aida Freudenthal, Arimos e Fazendas: A Transição Agrária em Angola (Luanda, 2005). For
the central plateau, see Linda Heywood, 'The growth and decline of African agriculture in
central Angola, 1890-1950', Journal of Southern African Studies, 13, 3 (1987), 355-71. See
also Heywood, Contested Power, 15, 41-3.
which they adopted from settlers or from missionaries. Keeping in mind that a
variety of ecological and historical conditions existed, it is possible to assess the
development of agriculture before Portuguese conquest from archive sources, many
already published.38
The plateau villagers developed a good knowledge of the use of streams and of
different types of land. In their slash-and-burn agriculture, long fallows together with
rotation and intercropping compensated for poor fertility, once forest protection was
removed and rains washed soils away.39 Childs observed 'the particular type of
agriculture which the Ovimbundu carry on with upland fields for the principal crops
of maize and beans growing in the rainy season and with river gardens for secondary
cultures in the dry season. The purpose of the latter is to piece out between the
principal harvests'.40 The ocumbo, a special garden near the house, was once the only
one cultivated by men, usually to grow tobacco for personal consumption or for
trade, but in time it became a true kitchen garden.
Except for the clearing of new fields in the woodlands, until the beginning of
the twentieth century agriculture was essentially the domain of women with its
corresponding rituals and celebrations, also at the highest political level, through the
functions of the king's first wife (inakulu): 'The queen's special province was
agriculture and her kitchen was sanctified by human sacrifice to guarantee the
national food supply. Ceremonially treated seed was distributed to be mixed with the
seed of each granary.'41 The characteristic two-handled hoe with its oval blade was
See for instance the series of Angolana, Documentação sobre Angola, for the nineteenth
century. See also Delgado, Ao Sul, and Ralph Delgado, A famosa e Histórica Benguela:
Catálogo dos Governadores (1779 a 1940) (Benguela, 1940).
The traditional use of a legume crop intercalated with maize fed the soil, a 'discovery'
peasant women shared with modern scientific research. See Mary Floyd Cushman,
Missionary Doctor. The Story of Twenty Years in Africa (New York and London, 1944), 728.
Childs, Umbundu Kinship, 8.
Ibid., 20. For women (both free and 'slaves') in high positions at Ovimbundu courts, see
Hastings, Ovimbundu Customs, 35-7 and 51-2, based on his knowledge of Mbalundu. For
well adapted to women's work and to the thin layer of fertile soils. Different types of
fields were cultivated: on hills and slopes (ongongo); on lower and wet lands near
streams (onaka); in the transitional zone between the two, the ombanda and,
whenever possible, the elunda (on lands of a previous human settlement, chosen for
their organic richness). Some fields could be under permanent occupation (like the
onaka) but most of the available lands were ongongo, subject to fallows of more than
twenty years. Later on, when settlers and corporations were looking for lands in the
plateau, those long fallow periods facilitated their appropriation of great extensions
of land on the pretext that they were 'vacant lands'.42
Commercialized maize production became important in the economy of
Huambo from the outset of colonial rule. Helped by the coming of the Benguela
railroad after 1910, maize (and to a lesser extent, beans and other crops) sustained
trading houses and individual merchants when it became clear that rubber exports
would never recover. Maize also saved from economic collapse those Ovimbundu
dependent on foreign trade and opened new opportunities for many others, including
women. But this economic transition from a wild product collected or bartered in the
regions to the east, mainly a male business, to a local product based mainly on
female experience, meant far reaching social change. The greater involvement of
great female celebrations after the main crops (the kanye feast) in Viye, see Magyar, Reisen,
313-4. On the role of women at large, see Luisa Mastrobuono, 'Ovimbundu Women and
Coercive Labour Systems, 1850-1940: From Still Life to Moving Picture', M.A. thesis,
University of Toronto, 1992. Also Linda Heywood, 'Ovimbundu women and social change,
1880-1926', in A África e a Instalação do Sistema Colonial (c.1885-c.1930) (Lisbon, 2000),
The plough and the use of oxen to pull it, that came along with more involvement of men
in agriculture, was adopted from foreigners after 1920, with earlier examples near Caconda
and, after 1914, the Ndondi protestant mission. See Botelho 'Agricultura', 240-1. Botelho
signed as 'the Province agronomist' in both the August 1887 and the July 1890 reports. For
an explanation of the types of land mentioned, see MIAA, Recenseamento, Secção 1:
'Utilização da terra'.
men in agriculture was one striking aspect of it, a process that was witnessed and
encouraged by missionaries, settlers and administrative officials alike.43
There was no agriculture miracle, however: villagers all over central Angola
had long given maize a privileged place in their consumption habits. It was eaten as a
fresh or roasted vegetable, as a grain grounded and cooked in boiling water like
polenta or turned into beer through fermentation.44 Evidence of early adoption of
maize (and cassava) exists in oral traditions. In the 1940s, Childs was told by a
narrator from Ngalange that 'his grandmother had told him that in the older days
people always carried some seed about in pouches on their persons for fear of sudden
raids, maize was not known and emmer wheat was the staple food.' He also told how
Ndumba Visoso, a 'son' of 'the first man' Feti and a chief of hunters of antelopes and
elephants, instigated by his younger brother Ngalangi attacked and drove out the
who then occupied what is now the ombala (capital or king's residence) of
Ngalangi. Taking it for their own, they brought their loads of food: beans,
emmer wheat, kaffir-corn, cassava, and maize; and where they rested their
loads the load sticks took root and became the sycamore figs which to this day
encircle the capital village.45
Agricultural experts agreed that the ability of local peasants rather than the
soils had to be praised for Huambo's role in cereal production in the colonial era. If
in older times this meant mostly the labour and competence of women, the burden of
an expanding agriculture rested again on them when the male population was forced
to respond to the demands of labour from different sectors of the colonial economy.
In 1916, in Huambo Circunscrição, in a total black population of 220,766, agriculture
occupied 75,241 women and 34,241 men, the latter considered 'a recent fact': Jofre Amaral
Nogueira, A colonização do Huambo (Nova Lisboa, 1953), 45-6. In 1919 a report from the
administrator of the Circunscrição claimed each 'native' woman cultivated yearly an average
of fifty ares (a total of 5,000 square meters), with a variety of crops, mainly maize and
beans. Idem, 43. See also Heywood, 'Ovimbundu women'.
See Magyar, Reisen, particularly his descriptions of the various territories. Also Botelho,
'Agricultura no Districto'.
Childs, Umbundu Kinship, 175 and note 4.
But again, not every area was equally affected by drainage of male labour and not all
the time. Ecological strain on the land would prove to be of more serious
consequences: railway construction and the need for fuel destroyed huge extensions
of woodlands; human concentration and changes in agriculture led to rapid
impoverishment of soils after initial success and no technical help was available to
most peasants until much later.46
As for local African traders, several factors played against their prosperity: the
collapse of the prices of wild African rubber in international markets, the growing
number of Portuguese traders coming to central Angola and, from 1910, the coming
of the railway and the opening of a network of roads for motorized transport. But
they still competed with Portuguese traders, as trade permits issued by the colonial
administration testify. For instance, in March 1911 several licenses to fumbeiros
(travelling traders) and quitandeiras (female food sellers) were sent from the
Huambo military command to the military post of Cuima. In a list of thirty, twenty
had no Christian names (indicating they were neither white nor 'civilized' blacks) and
almost all were resident in villages.47
The railway took almost ten years to reach the lands of old Wambu, from
Lobito bay, and its impact was felt from the beginning. Exploitation of timber for the
construction of the line and firewood for the locomotives caused serious
deforestation until the railway company was forced to begin a reforestation program
with imported eucalyptus. Relocation of villages and the abandonment of cultivated
Although colonial policies aggravated the situation, demographic pressure and poor soils
in most of central Angola deny pictures of a sustainable agricultural prosperity only
hampered by colonial rule, as Heywood suggests in 'The growth', 370-1. Cf. technical reports
of MIAA on different areas of 'Zone 24'. Also Castanheira Diniz e F. Q. Barros Aguiar,
'Zonagem Agro-ecológica da Região Central Angolana', Agronomia Angolana, 23 (1966),
ANA, Códice 9,512. The olofumbelo (sing. fumbelo, in Portuguese fumbeiro) were in the
past wealthy caravan traders. See Schonberg-Lothholz, 'Die Karawanenreisen'. They could
also be at the service of European traders. See Malheiro, Chronicas, 151. In Umbundu the
word currently means both 'rich' and 'merchant'. Daniel, Ondisionaliu, 534.
areas without any proper 'compensation' to the villagers were common. As
elsewhere, the railroad made some villages and crossroads develop into railway
towns or simple stop-points (apeadeiros) but left other places in decay, diverting the
old trade routes.48 Nonetheless, bulk transportation stimulated peasant production, as
reflected in the colony's exports of maize, most of it sent through Lobito and
Benguela. Angola's exports of maize went from 29 tonnes in 1911 to 4,052 tonnes in
1914, 15,962 tonnes in 1919, 27,263 tonnes in 1921, 37,059 tonnes in 1922, 53,956
tonnes in 1929 and 71,250 tonnes in 1930. Beans, another product of the plateau,
went from 20 tonnes in 1911 to 10,167 tonnes in 1914, although declining
afterwards. All this represented a remarkable human investment on agriculture in
some parts of central Angola.49 Many villagers carried their own production to the
nearest trader or to the railroad with help from relatives, servants or paid porters. In
fact, until the 1920s, transportation to and from the railroad still depended very much
on African carriers, working for European traders or for African (and a few
European) producers. It was the network of roads and the expansion of motorized
transport that finally put an end to the carriers' transportation system.50
So, prosperity and impoverishment, opportunities and abuse were all part of the
colonial experience of peasant societies in the highlands in this period, when seen
retrospectively. However, it would be difficult in 1902 to imagine any prosperity
After the railway reached Kahala, African traders from Ngalange no longer went to
Caconda, from where their old caravan route reached Benguela. Interview with Muteka,
Luanda, 1991. On the economic and social impact of the Benguela Railway, see Emmanuel
Esteves, 'O Caminho de Ferro de Benguela e o impacto económico, social e cultural na sua
zona de influência 1902-1952', PhD thesis, University of Porto, 1999. See also Simon
Katzenellenbogen, Railways and the Copper Mines of Katanga (Oxford, 1973), 165.
Norton de Matos, Memórias e Trabalhos da Minha Vida (Lisbon, 1944), II, 247. Álvaro de
Melo Machado, 'O Caminho de Ferro de Benguela e o desenvolvimento da Província de
Angola', Boletim da Agência Geral das Colónias (hereafter BAGC), 47 (1929), 246. For
maize exports (1919-1928), see J. Mimoso Moreira, 'Breve memória histórica,
compreendendo as possibilidades da colónia e as suas actividades económicas', BAGC, 47
(1929), 271.
See Maria C. Neto, 'Nas malhas da rede: aspectos do impacto económico e social do
transporte rodoviário na região do Huambo (c.1920-c.1960)', in Beatrix Heintze and Achim
von Oppen (eds.), Angola on the Move: Transport routes, Communications and History,
(Frankfurt, 2008), 117-29.
coming alongside colonial rule. Descriptions of areas around Huambo tell more
about depopulation and destitution than about economic resurgence.
The meaning of defeat
The visible impoverishment of the rural economy in Wambu and nearby regions after
1902 was the main immediate result of their military defeat. Heavy war
compensation was demanded by the Portuguese; villages were burnt to the ground
and cultivated fields destroyed; annual taxes had to be paid to the new
administration, despite the fact that only in 1906 was the hut tax (imposto de cubata
or imposto de palhota) established all over the colony; and men and women were
used to build fortresses and roads, needed to assure Portuguese control. War tribute
was twofold and arbitrary. A 'compensation' for Portuguese losses was demanded,
payments being usually in cattle but also in rubber and diverse food items.51 Cattle
and rubber were also asked as ransom for prisoners, since only the more important
ones were sent to Benguela; others, including women and children, stayed as
hostages with military columns or in the nearest administrative posts and were used
to negotiate 'peace' conditions. African chiefs and headmen not complying with those
conditions could face a resumption of hostilities, including cattle raiding and village
burning. Sometimes, before an imminent or supposed attack by Portuguese military
forces, chiefs tried to avoid further consequences of war by offering cattle and other
goods as proof of submission.
Documents from the 1902 campaign kept in Portuguese military archives give
an idea of what happened in Wambu, Kandumbu and Sambu and the economic
burden of the defeat. During the battle for Nganda and Kawe on the 12 September
1902, the Portuguese took 391 prisoners 'whose ransom would reduce the
See Moncada, Campanha do Bailundo, 188 and passim.
expedition's expenses' and captured two hundred head of cattle. In a separate action
nearby, 93 head of cattle were captured.52 On 6 October 1902, the governor of
Benguela and commander of the southern military column, Teixeira Moutinho,
'demanded from the Chilala of Candumbo and other secúlos, our more important
prisoners, two hundred oxen for their liberation, that is one hundred head of cattle for
each one of our dead which he promised to pay in six days and failed'. Back in
Caconda, Moutinho reported that 'Kandumbu had not satisfied the war tribute
imposed after the engagements of 18 and 19 September, in the next six days … so I
ordered the resumption of hostilities and almost all villages were burned to the
ground and 322 head of cattle captured'.53 Afraid of suffering the fate of Kandumbu,
Sambu's soma asked for a peace agreement. Arriving near the ombala with his troops
on 3 October, the governor sent his peace conditions, to be satisfied in six days: to
hand over three men suspected of inciting rebellion; a war tribute in cattle plus six
guns for every Sambu libata (village); to release the child of a Portuguese merchant
captured by Sambu 'rebels'; to contribute labourers to build a fort in the area; and to
accept to pay a hut tax after a quick census. Those conditions were fulfilled. In the
meantime at Kisala, on 23 October, Wambu olosekulu and their new soma agreed to
pay one hundred head of cattle and fifty loads of rubber. On 26 October, women and
children prisoners of war were finally released.54
In November the new soma of Kandumbu traveled to Caconda to meet the
Governor and pay 17 oxen and eight loads of rubber, instead of the thirty he had
previously agreed, as a ransom for the prisoners. The Governor considered that the
missing five oxen or five rubber loads 'that are equivalent in the gentio's uses' could
Teixeira Moutinho to Chefe de Estado-Maior do Governo Geral de Angola, 12 September
1902 and 15 September 1902, AHM, Box 7, File 22.
Quoted in Moncada, Campanha do Bailundo, 189. Cilala was one of the court dignitaries'
Teixeira Moutinho to Chefe de Estado-Maior do Governo Geral de Angola, 30 October
1902, AHM, Box 7, File 22.
be forgiven since the soma had previously offered 14 oxen to the expedition as a sign
of good will. The prisoners were released except the more important ones 'who will
go to Benguela'.55
In the beginning, minimal Portuguese military forces left in small fortresses in
Kisala (Wambu) and Sambu could only survive if the VaWambu, the VaSambu and
their neighbours were convinced that open resistance was worthless. The violence of
conquest and the death of the soma of Wambu and many dignitaries were a powerful
deterrent to rebellion. That 'pacification' was not complete, however, can be shown
by the panic spread in 1912 among European traders in Sambu and Huambo. News
that a rebellion was in the making came to Benguela where merchants and
newspapers amplified it, demanding military action and anticipating terrible
consequences if trade was to suffer interruption 'like in 1902'. The acting Governor
of Benguela left for Sambu with a few troops and a party of volunteers. Finally, the
real or supposed rebellion (most probably a conflict over taxation) was suppressed by
the removal of some important olosoma and olosekulu to prison in Benguela,
although three of them committed suicide on the way.56
Whatever colonial doctrine Lisbon followed, the Portuguese authorities still
had to rule through African chiefs and headmen, if possible 'elected' to have some
legitimacy. But their authority was undermined since they were confirmed in power
by Portuguese military or administrative authorities who used discretionary powers
to get rid of the 'undesirable' ones. Apparently, the administrative reorganization
after 1910 included a more careful assessment of African chiefs and headmen, for
political and economic reasons. Depending on the administration staff, this was more
Idem, 11 November 1902, AHM Box 7, File 22.
Jornal de Benguela, 3 September 1912, 1, and 11 September 1912, 4.
or less implemented, but official registry books required detailed information on
According to the 1912 registry, Xiromboxogoma (for Cilombo-co-Ngoma or
Cilombo-co-Ñoma) was chosen 'by his people' to be chief of Wambu after the 1902
war.58 He was still nominally in charge in the 1934 registry of local chiefs. The heir
was supposed to be his son Kufakonjamba. But there are other and less clear
indications of the intricacies of political entities before and after the conquest. In the
same document the village of Gumbe is said to be 'dependent of the old chiefdom of
Sumi, nowadays the chiefdom of Huambo and so included in the respective registry
of Soba Chilomo-Chiongoma'.59 Another important chiefdom was Kandumbu, a
tributary of Wambu. Around the impressive rocks that protected the ombala, some
30 kilometers east of the city, the last great battle took place in 1902. In 1912, the
Kandumbu soma was Civimbi (or Chimbimbi) and his heir was Evimbi but the
Portuguese authorities later on appointed the chief of Gulaua, Cikualula, to the place.
A note in 1934 clarified that Cikualula was 'son of Atende and Chisoma … and was
before the soba of Gulaua where he is very much respected. He has little influence
Name of the soba, race (colour), estimated birth date, birth place, marital status, sons and
daughters, name of heir, biographic notes, area of his sobado, subdivisions, development of
agriculture, trade and industry, climate, soils, behaviour of the people, population numbers
(whites, blacks, mixed-race), number of huts, annual tax revenue, shops and shopkeepers,
number of cattle, pigs, goats and sheep, distance from the administrative post and 'other
useful notes'. In Huambo Circunscrição in 1912, 28 sobados were registered with four
(Caveto, Jamba, Camatunda and Saxitemo) indicated as belonging to Sambo. The others
were Chitungo, Gulaua, Sacaxôco, Mande, Quequete, Bongo, Mama, Sumi alias Huambo,
Lende, Xinguri, Moma-Jamba, Cambuio, Goluve, Candumbo, Moinesse, Gongo, Nunda,
Coquengo, Quipeio, Chivumbo, Cacuco, Caupangue, Munana, Calenga [original spelling].
ANA, Códice 10,001.
In Mbalundu Cilombo-co-ñoma was one of the king's dignitaries, the 'sabre bearer' who
took 'the chief's sabre on special occasions to villages … for the purpose of … getting ready
for a campaign': Hastings, Ovimbundu Customs, 69. Most probably, 'Xiromboxogoma' was
the Cilombo-co-Ñoma at the court of the defeated Wambu king Livonge.
Different spelling of the name. A note gives the sobado area as the one covered by 'all
subaltern sobas and sobetas of the administrative Posts of Huambo, Quipeio and OlandoCuíma'. ANA, Códice 10,001.
over the rest of his peoples although there are many villages belonging to him'.60
Comments on the 'compliant' or 'rebellious' character of chiefs depended on their
influence on people to pay the taxes and to provide labour.61
Changes to the administrative map translated on the ground (through taxation
control) into a new territorialization of African chiefdoms and a redefinition of
former hierarchies.62 Colonial laws tried to reorganize African villages while others
were displaced for settlers' or companies' convenience, not to mention Christian
missions promoting separate villages for 'their people'.63 Villages were also being
created by newcomers who were neither VaWambu nor even Ovimbundu. Some of
the so-called sobas were post-1902 immigrants, including traders and former soldiers
of the Portuguese auxiliary troops, who established themselves, raised big
polygamous families and built villages great enough to make them known as soba
later on, when the word had lost much of its original political meaning.64
In the beginning, the Portuguese apparently intended to make tax collecting
and the correlated census coincide with local chiefdoms and their subdivisions. In the
administration books, taxpayers were registered under the name of their olosoma and
ANA, Códice 10,001. Kandumbu and Gulaua (about 20 km from the city) shared
dominant lineages. Civimbi was 'dismissed because of age' (no date registered). ANA,
Códice 10,001.
In 1934, the chief of Jongolo (a sobado about 50 kilometres from Huambo) was said to
have influence on his people which 'resisted giving the 24 days of compulsory work [for the
state]'. ANA, Códice 7,375. Also ANA, Códice 3,479.
Ganda's Administrador contested that Quiaca (Ciyaka), despite its shorter distance and
peoples' affinities with Ganda, was under the administration of Bailundo. Simão de
Laboreiro, Circunscrição Civil da Ganda: Relatório 1914-1915 (Benguela, 1916), 8.
Laboreiro worked in several administrative areas, before and after 1910, and knew Angola
quite well.
Norton defined to the detail how African villages should be: Provincial Ordinance 137
(1921), adding to Ordinance 1224 (1914). Norton de Matos, A Província de Angola (Porto,
1926), 267.
For instance, 'soba Raimundo', Francisco Raimundo Cosme, came from Amboim or
further north following the rubber trade. He established his village near Kandumbo while his
brother António stayed near Kisala. Their many wives, from different origins, produced a
great number of descendants, some still there and many others all over Angola and also in
Europe. I thank Francisco's granddaughter Isabel Simão Neto for this information. On
António Raimundo Cosme, see A. A. Dias, Pombeiros de Angola (Lisbon, n.d.), 49-52.
Many other black traders from the Portuguese colony had settled on the area before the
conquest. For a unique published autobiography, see Coimbra, A Curiosa História.
olosekulu. Administrative orders often changed the place where the hut tax should be
paid, adjusting it to the traditional African hierarchy. In March 1911 the peoples of
Cachissapa, Tchapungo, Sachitumbo and Caveto were told to go and pay their taxes
not in Huambo but in Sambu, because they were Sambu soma's subjects 'before the
establishment of our authority over these lands' and there was no reason to change
that tradition 'as far as it did not go against our sovereignty and civilizing laws'.
Similarly, in March 1911 the Cuima administration was informed that 'soba de
Mama and peoples subordinate to him' had always been dependent on Wambu and so
they should pay their taxes to the Huambo administration and not to Cuima.65 As
with taxpayers, identification of 'contract' labourers included the name of the sekulu
to whom they 'belonged to'. However, population moved out and in administrative
boundaries which could also change two or three times in a short period. In the end,
they had little correspondence with ancient political entities, but colonial
administrators still relied, as much as they could, on the ability of olosoma and
olosekulu (old or new) to control 'their' people, often punishing them when they
When more people came to establish themselves near the new city of Huambo,
the Portuguese administration appointed or confirmed more olosekulu, whether or
not they belonged to old ruling lineages. The aim was to control the growing number
of 'natives', many evading labour recruitment and tax payments or becoming a 'public
order problem' because of alcohol production and abuse. The Portuguese word soba
became widely used for headmen, making more difficult the identification of
olosoma proper. New olosekulu and olosoma emerged on the town's outskirts and it
is not clear what was induced by the colonial state and what was a spontaneous form
ANA, Códice 9,512, fls. 135-6.
of regrouping and creating hierarchies in a new environment. Anyway, many names
of chiefs in the 1930s registry book had no correspondence in past registries.
Despite the use of chiefs and headmen to control the rural and peri-urban
'natives', the Portuguese administration gave them neither much visibility nor a high
status. Norton de Matos clearly advocated the suppression of great chieftainships and
the survival or creation of smaller ones, giving headmen the role of 'ideal
intermediaries between the state and the [native] population'. In this he explicitly
disagreed with Belgian policy in Congo and with that of the British in West Africa
that he praised in many other aspects.66
Land expropriation was not a big problem in Huambo in the 1910s and 1920s,
except for some olonaka, the fertile lowlands by the streams. Population was less
dense than in Bailundo or Sambu and the railway, with its huge demands on land use,
only came to the old Wambu territory after 1910. There were a few white farmers on
the plateau (including some Boers, Germans and British), but most European settlers
preferred to make a living by trading, building or working for the railway company.
Land laws until 1919 still gave individual African peasants some protection
whenever strict state officials applied them, as seemed to be the case in Huambo.
Registry books for land concessions to individual 'natives' were apparently used only
if land disputes involved also settlers or companies. Land property titles were given
to African peasants, usually men but also women. In 1919, a group of them got their
lands protected against an estate owner, after refusing compensation for leaving the
area. Despite protest from the solicitor and manager of the estate, the well-known
Benguela lawyer Aguiam, Administrador Castro Soromenho registered their
properties and sent a copy of land titles to Benguela.67
Matos, A Província, 262. Cf. Newitt, Portugal in Africa, 104-5, including a critical
comment from Henrique Galvão.
ANA, Códice 9,949.
Ignorance of the law and fear of repression certainly played against villagers'
rights, but the usual procedure involved a verbal agreement and a small payment to
move their cultivated plots elsewhere, as colonial law prevented 'concessions' on
lands occupied by native agriculture. New legislation in 1919 made it more difficult
for 'natives' to be recognized as land owners, due to what Norton condemned as 'a
land concession fever' and 'a damaging epidemic of land demarcation' that risked
transforming African peasants into 'serfs' (servos da gleba) of European landlords.
As High Commissioner (1921-24) he tried to counteract that, convinced that both
European and African farmers should develop Angola's agriculture, but his by-laws
were overruled by subsequent legislation.68
So, in the early twentieth century the economic survival of rural communities
was not threatened by large scale land expropriation. Rather, taxation and coercive
labour were the main instruments used to force African villagers to serve colonial
economic interests. Those aspects where essential to define 'natives' and their place
in the colonial society and affected deeply the history of Huambo.
Becoming 'natives'
Taxation was an important multifunctional device for colonial rule in Africa, whether
as a 'hut tax' or poll tax. It was first of all a sign of political submission and a means
of control of the 'native' population; it was also a way of forcing African villagers to
enter the new monetary economy, through labour or the selling of surplus
production; and, at least in Angola, it was until 1961 an important source of income
for the state. Taxation was not new in African societies, in central Angola as
elsewhere. Caravan leaders used part of their goods to pay local chiefs wherever they
went for business, or simply to be allowed to pass through. Hunters, peasants and
Matos, A Província, 255-7 and 261. See Newitt, Portugal in Africa, 106-12.
villagers at large had to give a specific part of their production to their chiefs.
Regular tributes forged alliances and established the political position of each chief
in the hierarchy of powers. Contact with the old Portuguese colony had not changed
this system in the independent kingdoms of the plateau. Long-distance trade
reinforced it, adding more slaves to the tribute flux and multiplying the opportunity
for the taxation of foreigners. War tributes were paid to the winners, whether they
were Africans or Europeans. But annual colonial taxation had different aims and farreaching implications for common people's lives.
In 1906, Governor-General Eduardo Costa introduced the 'hut tax' which was
presented as a precious tool for political, economic and educational development.69 It
was argued that in the eyes of Africans, tribute was inseparable from political
subordination and that taxes, being paid in money, cattle, goods or work, would
encourage production. Governor-General Paiva Couceiro, who first collected it
(1907-8), advocated using part of the income for local development schemes but he
never got Lisbon's agreement for that.70 Only after the defeat of Kwanyama in 1915
was taxation imposed on all 'natives', with its value in each administrative zone based
on its inhabitants' supposed wealth.71
In 1913, in a famous Circular, Norton de Matos urged administrative staff of
Circunscrições and Capitanias-mores to collect tax in cash wherever possible, to
show clearly to the 'natives' how much they had to pay, to use only proper
administrative staff to collect it (a reference to the abusive actions of local traders
and cipaios), and to try to convince payers that taxes would partially fund roads,
schools and medical care.72 He stressed again the political significance of the hut tax
Decree 13 September 1906. For an overview of taxation until the 1920s, see José Ferreira
Diniz, 'Da política indígena em Angola: os impostos indígenas', BAGC, 47 (1929), 136-165.
Paiva Couceiro, Angola, 229-31.
Laboreiro, Circunscrição, 69-86. As he noted, tax even exceeded the value of the house
when this was a simple straw hut.
Cipaios were 'native' police working for the administration. See Chapter 5.
and how the use of any armed force was to be avoided. If attempts to resist occurred,
a 'strong warning' to the local African chief was suggested. The Governor wanted to
hear no more about 'abuse, extortion and irregularities' usually associated with the
hut tax.
But the firm measures of Norton de Matos could not reform the system since
the problem went far beyond a few unscrupulous individuals. As Laboreiro wrote, as
long as a certain percentage of the money collected in one area went to the
administrative staff, to auxiliaries and to the olosekulu and olosoma, abuse was
inevitable.73 The use of traders and local regedores as tax collectors also promoted
abuse. Portuguese merchants were scattered all over the central plateau and had more
contact with the local population than the understaffed administrative posts, a reason
for their involvement in the process of tax collecting. That left villagers with double
dependency on the nearest merchant: not only were they chronically in debt to him
(who 'helped' to pay their taxes), but they also saw him invested with an official
power that he had no right to claim. Regedores, semi-official representatives of the
colonial state in areas where a proper administrative staff was non-existent, were also
profiting from their intermediary role by making abusive demands. Occasionally,
scandal in tax collecting and the fear of Africans' rebellion led to a more serious
investigation or prompted Portuguese authorities to take palliative measures.74
Inseparable from taxation were population census and control. Systematic
taxation depended on reliable demographic data, but in the early twentieth century
very little was known about Angola's population. Taxation was difficult to
implement while occupation was not 'complete, effective and real'. Even more
difficult was to get information on villagers' wealth, including crops and livestock,
Laboreiro, Circunscrição, 69. In Huambo, Bailundo and Bié, 'hut tax' revenues could be
up to 100,000 escudos, in that case giving the Administrador an annual income 'greater than
that of the Governor-General': Idem, 21-2.
Taxation was often discussed in newspapers. For a critique of regedores by a trader in
Bié, see Fonseca Santos, 'Imposto de cubata', Jornal de Benguela, 5 March 1913, 4.
given the widespread suspicion that the aim was stealing, not counting. Paiva
Couceiro's projected census did not go ahead and it was only in 1940 that Angola
had its first Censo Geral.75
Many Circunscrições in the central plateau were among the most populated in
the 1910s and 1920s. In the 1925-6 fiscal year, Bailundo was far ahead with 35,898
taxpayers, being with Ganda (24,274) the only one with more than 20,000 taxpayers.
Between 15,000 and 20,000 were registered in Bié (19,669), Caconda (19,183),
Luimbale (18,500), Andulo (18,472) and Huambo (17,128), all in central Angola;
after them came Zombo, Damba, Ambaca, Amboim, Seles, Malanje, Alto Zambeze
and Moxico. Those were areas of rather different sizes and demographic
characteristics but the seventh place of Huambo is impressive because it was among
the smaller Circunscrições.76
Data have to be used with care, however, since people used many ways of
evading censuses and fooling administrative officials. The response to colonial
taxation changed across time and space but in central Angola open rebellion was
more difficult after 1902, although a few attempts were noted. Much more common
was tax evasion through hiding and giving false information. That would become
harder from the 1920s on, due to better roads and a more effective administrative
occupation of Huambo and neighbouring areas.77
The explicit political significance of direct taxation sometimes leaves in the
shadow its financial value and how much it contributed to put the burden of
Paiva Couceiro, Angola, 230. For an account of earlier population estimates, see Alberto
de Lemos' introduction: Censo Geral da População de Angola (Luanda, 1941), I, 3-76.
[Hereafter, Census 1941]. For an attempt to combine disparate sources, see Linda Heywood
and John K. Thornton, 'Demography, production, and labor: Central Angola 1890-1950', in
Dennis D. Cordell and Joel W. Gregory (eds.), African Population and Capitalism:
Historical Perspectives (London, 1987), 241-55.
Diniz, 'Da política', 162.
Among strategies to escape the census and taxation, huts could be carefully hidden in the
bush, cattle were taken elsewhere, and roosters could be killed to prevent their crow when
tax collectors were approaching. See Laboreiro, Circunscrição, 45-8.
colonization even more on the shoulders of the colonized. In Angola the 'native tax'
was always among the colonial state's main sources of income, not to mention what
in the process had been redistributed among otherwise ill-paid civil servants.
Between 1910-11 and 1922-23 tax revenues rose steadily, due to the consolidation of
colonial rule, a more efficient administration and, last but not least, 'native' trade and
agriculture being able to meet the administration's demands. But soon taxation
became a serious constraint in peasants' lives and, as expected, a way of forcing
many to work for wages.78
Laboreiro, an experienced administrator, in vain warned against the taxation of
peasant wealth. If people, mainly in areas rich in cattle and agriculture, could pay the
first, the second, even a third year without reluctance, they would have greater
difficulties later because they were becoming poorer and would not be able to go on
paying the following years. And acceptance of cattle as payment or the selling of
cattle to pay the tax was certainly not sustainable.79 A few years later, the powerful
Benguela Trade Association called for reduced 'native' taxes (but also for reduced
wages), submitting to the High Commissioner a proposal based on the 'deficit of
native population', on the relation between taxation and wages and on the need for
financial support to develop (European) agriculture. They also stressed the
importance of 'native agriculture' and maize exportation but added that
'reorganization' of native authorities was needed as 'natural auxiliaries of civil and
military authorities' to improve both production and availability of labour in the
Benguela interland.80
Value of state revenues from hut tax (or native poll tax) in Angola, in escudos: 72,021 in
1908-09; 143,250 in 1909-10; 359,760 in 1914-15; 2,591,249 in 1919-20; and 7,500,000 in
1922-23, the most 'efficient' year before declining towards the end of the decade. Despite
currency changes and fluctuation, it is an impressive evolution. Matos, A Província, 184.
Laboreiro, Circunscrição, 70. Though the situation in Ganda was better than around
Huambo, the author's comments were based on the situation at large.
Jornal de Benguela, 22 January 1926, 5: 'O problema da mão-de-obra. Uma representação
da Associação Comercial de Benguela ao Sr. Alto Comissário'.
In 1919 the hut tax gave way to a per capita tax (imposto indígena). The report
preceding the ordinance reaffirmed that such tax was 'personal and political' and a
'sign of subordination', diverging in its aims 'from the taxes in civilized countries; It
is a powerful indirect method of pushing the natives into good working habits'. It
also intended to improve morals and family organization, so polygamous men paid
supplementary taxes. The 1920 regulations reaffirmed that the native tax was to be
paid by every black and mixed-race Angolan inhabitant 'whose education, habits and
behaviour do not diverge from the usual of the African races', a formula similar to
that of the Native Statute yet to be produced. Exemptions of payment included:
children under 16; people too old, retired or severely disabled; women under 21
while dependant on parents or relatives; married women, except in polygamous
marriages; men serving in auxiliary military forces or as cipaios ('native' police) in
the colonial administration; those serving as domestic servants uninterruptedly for
over two years; those paying an industrial contribution higher than the tax plus 50
per cent of its value (a rather improbable situation among those whose way of life did
not 'diverge from the usual of the African races'); and recognized African traditional
authorities, but only if the local administrator considered it 'politically convenient'.81
Apart from the obvious reasons for giving some privilege to the auxiliary
forces of the colonial state, note the attempt to stabilize domestic servants in their
work. In fact, many Africans in town only accepted the long hours and low wages in
European houses while waiting for a better opportunity. The foundation of Huambo
made no immediate difference in the way taxes were collected since most Africans
working in town were living in villages around it. But payments could be made not
only through the olosekulu but also directly at administrative posts and at some
Diniz, 'Da política', 154-7. The 21 March 1919 Ordinance was replaced and slightly
modified in January 1920 by a new Regulation of natives' census and taxation (Regulamento
do recenseamento e cobrança do imposto indígena).
settlers' farms (fazendas).82 As the population grew, round-ups were regularly
ordered by the authorities to discover the undocumented and tax evaders. In later
years, those were the main reasons to arrest 'natives' and send them to forced work.83
With little changes, the 'native tax' survived until 1961 and was one of the main
grievances against colonial rule.
The other big issue was labour recruitment in its many forms. The 1899 'Native
Labour Code' (Código do Trabalho dos Indígenas) legalized forced labour in
Portuguese colonies even before military and administrative occupation were
complete.84 Labour systems overlapped in Angola, including different forms of
forced labour, the survival of old slavery practices and free waged labour. In
European plantations and farms 'if, legally, the planter did not own the labourer, in
fact the latter was in the possession and under total control of the former, or was like
a serf bonded to the land'.85
In the early twentieth century, distinct forms of slavery or serfdom were still in
use both by Europeans and Africans, not to mention continuity between slave trading
and the way serviçais were acquired. Two ways of getting slaves were rather
common: the exchange of 'gifts' (usually women or children 'offered' for different
tasks at home) and the 'redeeming' (resgate) of slaves from their former masters
against a payment. The latter was, in the eyes of many, no different from buying
slaves and indeed it kept the market going on, whether the intention was to send
them to São Tomé or to free them (as in Christian missions). Both 'gifts' and
ANA, Códice, 3,725.
See Chapter 5.
The Code was a clear rupture with nineteenth-century 'assimilation' doctrines represented
by Sá da Bandeira. See Alexandre, 'A questão', 98-102.
Capela, O Imposto, 21.
'redeeming' provided an excuse for many settlers, civil servants and others to have a
number of servants bound to them.86
As noted before, abuse in the recruitment of serviçais in central Angola was
among the causes of the 1902 war. Recruitment was substantially reduced in the
immediate aftermath of the war, but it soon resumed with people from further east. In
1908, in the coastal town of Catumbela, two 'emigration agencies' to São Tomé
existed and 907 serviçais embarked for the island. There was also 'some emigration'
to the southern areas of Moçâmedes e Porto Alexandre. Most serviçais were brought
by African caravans from 'Luva, Lunda and Ganguelas' and just a few were from
'Bié, Bailundo and Nano regions'.87
In January 1903, a decree regulating serviçais' contracts to São Tomé
generated in Luanda a movement of well-known citizens (black, white and mestiços),
in which Freemasons had some influence, demanding the suspension of such
contracts, arguing that Angola needed that labour and recruitment caused rebellion in
the hinterland.88 Lisbon then created a 'Central Board for Labour and Emigration'
(Junta Central de Trabalho e Emigração) to São Tomé and Príncipe, with some
members appointed by the government and others chosen by plantation owners.
International pressure also mounted after Nevinson's articles in 1906 in Harper's
Magazine exposing the inhuman aspects of the system to a wider audience and
Discussions on the morals of redeeming slaves surfaced in missionary texts, both Catholic
and Protestant. For evidence of such practice, see Father Ernesto Lecomte, Plan'alto do Sul
de Angola. Missões Portuguezas: Caconda, Catoco, Bihé e Bailundo (Lisbon, 1987), 8 and
12; Michael A. Samuels, Education in Angola, 1878-1914: A History of Culture Transfer
and Administration (New York, 1970), 74 and 142, note 73. For the Holy Ghost Fathers
elsewhere in Angola, see Jelmer A. Vos, 'The Kingdom of Kongo and Its Borderlands,
1880-1915', PhD thesis, London, SOAS, 2005, 59. See also Clarence-Smith, 'Slavery', 214223. For denial of slavery, justifying 'gifts' and resgate, see Aguiam (ed.), A revolta do
Bailundo, 14, 15, 17 and 59-60.
Bastos, Monographia, 69. In 1913, six hundred workers left to São Tomé from the
Benguela district. Jornal de Benguela, 26 March 1913, 1-2.
A six page leaflet with more than ninety signatures was printed: Ao Paiz. O Povo de
Loanda contra o Renovamento dos Contractos de Serviçaes (Loanda, 1903). On freemasons
and Angolan journalism, see Júlio de Castro Lopo, Jornalismo de Angola, Subsídios para a
sua História (Luanda, 1964), 51-6.
leaving the main beneficiaries of cocoa production in need of taking some action.89
In 1909 British and German chocolate manufacturers decided to boycott São Tomé
cocoa, although the interests of British cocoa growers elsewhere were probably more
influential in the boycott than concerns about the well-being of labourers, not much
better treated in other colonies.90
The Portuguese government therefore produced legislation in order to alleviate
the conditions of recruitment and transport of serviçais and after Republicans took
power in 1910 slave-like labour was more systematically confronted. There is
evidence that news circulated among slaves and serviçais without 'contract' that
Portuguese authorities were ending slavery and repressing abuse from employers.
Writing from Huambo (Kisala fortress) to the Curador dos Serviçais (Serviçais'
Guardian) in Benguela in 1911, the Military Commander listed several cases of
people coming to the military authority because they no longer wanted to serve their
masters. Some had no place to go since they were unaware where exactly they had
come from. Their masters were usually European merchants or farmers, but one was
a village sekulu. After registering names and personal data, a declaration was
produced confirming that they were free and could choose their own way of living.
However, a final decision was in the Curador's hands.91
Henry Nevinson, A Modern Slavery (London, 1906), followed by the missionary Charles
A. Swan, The Slavery of Today (Glasgow, 1909) and cocoa manufacturer William A.
Cadbury Labour in Portuguese West Africa (London, 1910). The latter included 1907
Joseph Burtt's 'Report on the Conditions of Coloured Labour on the Cocoa Plantations of S.
Thomé and Principe, and the methods of procuring it in Angola', based on his four month
travel in 1906. See James Duffy, A Question of Slavery (Oxford, 1967). For a recent study,
see Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo, Livros Brancos, Almas Negras: a “Missão Civilizadora” do
Colonialismo Português (c.1870-1930) (Lisbon 2010), especially 89-139.
See Newitt Portugal in Africa, 39. See also 'Editorial', The Standard, 26 September 1908,
in Lowell J. Satre, Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics & the Ethics of Business
(Athens/USA, 2005), 227-9. Extensive correspondence about contract labour in Portuguese
West Africa, presented to Parliament in 1912, shows the echo in Britain of post-1910
Portuguese efforts to improve conditions: SOAS-SC, IMC/CBMS, Africa II, Box 1,202,
File F (2).
ANA, Códice 9,512.
The 1911 Regulations for Native Labour (Regulamento Geral do trabalho dos
indígenas nas Colónias Portuguesas) fell short of introducing great changes but the
contract was limited to a maximum of two years; colonial authorities were authorized
to ban exports of labour from a certain region for political or economic convenience;
and violent treatment and incarceration (including the use of chains, shackles and neck
chains) were prohibited, which speaks for the former conditions.92 Things were slowly
moving forward, due to genuine anti-slavery commitment of some civil servants and
to changing conditions on the ground. The huge territorial expansion overstretched
the colonial administration, rebellion was real or imminent in many parts of the
colony and in the far south the Kwanyama were still not conquered. Moreover,
exports depended on products of African agriculture and cattle herding. So the way
African labour was incorporated into the economy had to change: capturing and
keeping serviçais against their will was not the answer.
Reformists also attacked, without success, unpaid labour under the pretext of
'public works'. As a Navy officer wrote, it was 'truly abusive and its apparent
advantages were highly counterproductive' since consequences were depopulation
(people escaping from controlled areas), the abandoning of agriculture and a lack of
labour in areas once well served. Workers were used by public services, private
corporations and individuals, without payment and sometimes without the daily
The development of new economic activities (sugar cane, palm industries,
coffee, fisheries) led to a resumption of labour recruitment in the more populated
areas of the central plateau. Despite some resistance from merchants and some
officials interested in keeping people in their areas, a flow of workers from central
Decree 27 May 1911. See Torres, O Império, 172 ff. For an example of settlers' reaction,
see Jornal de Benguela, 19 March 1913, 1.
A. A. Fernandes Rego, A Mão d'Obra nas Colónias Portuguezas d'Africa (Lisbon, 1911),
73, and 50-74. Rego studied at the Escola Colonial and was a fellow of the Lisbon
Geographical Society. See also Clarence-Smith, Third Portuguese Empire, 132.
and south-eastern Angola left every year. A new profession emerged: the engajador
or angariador, the man who travelled across the country looking for people
'interested' in accepting a work contract.94 In order to get the required men, payments
were made to local Portuguese authorities or/and to village headmen, the latter
becoming responsible and being punished if someone left the job without a strong
Moreover, administrators and Chefes de Posto could also send their agents,
usually cipaios, to get people for different types of work. From government
departments to private estate owners, to big companies or to military and civil
servants in need of transportation from one place to another, anybody prominent in
colonial society could ask (and get) the administration to provide workers and
carriers. There is abundant written evidence of these requisitions and it is fair to
suppose that many others were unregistered.95 Some defiant responses occurred,
including beating the cipaios or fleeing the village, but they had severe consequences
and normally the headmen tried to be on good terms with the administration and its
In 1915, the forced recruitment of carriers for the Portuguese campaign in
southern Angola against the Kwanyama and a hypothetical German invasion, added
to the burden of villagers on the central plateau, already affected by forced labour to
plantations and fisheries. Those were also times of severe drought and famine in
southern Angola and, to a lesser extent, in the centre. In early 1915, Norton de Matos
alerted Lisbon to the consequences of almost generalized drought, foreseeing a year
The engajador worked for one or more bosses and had to be registered as such. He could
also be a 'native'. ANA Códice 4,076 for licences in 1914.
In March 1911, the military command in Huambo informed the Benguela District
Government that 140 workers were sent to the building of the railway 'complying with Bylaws 297 and 410 of 1907'. Another document informed that 'a great number of workers'
who had been sent 'by superior order' to the Sphinge Farm came back complaining about
work conditions and refusal of payment. ANA, Códice 9,512. Between January and March
1914, 102 'waged and compelled workers', including 17 women, worked in the experimental
state farm (granja) in the town area. ANA, Códice 9,840.
of famine. He intended to buy maize flour in South Africa to feed native carriers,
workers and troops in southern Angola.96
Development of truly free waged labour was easier in towns, but Huambo
evolved too slowly until the late 1920s and only administrative development,
multiplication of trading houses and the railway building created significant new job
opportunities. A modest building industry (including tile production) and a few
guest-houses also employed a certain number of people but the railway and the state
were the main employers in town or nearby. Many other essential tasks were left to
temporary recruited workers or to prisoners without any formal contract.
The railway and the foundation of Cidade do Huambo
No other region under Portuguese rule had so many projects of European settlement
as Angola's central highlands. Although priority was given to Portuguese
immigrants, other projects of mass immigration existed, such as a Zionist plan to
settle Jews and another to settle Italians. The possibility of finding in central Angola
a safe haven for central and eastern European Jews inspired a Zionist group in
Lisbon to submit to Parliament a project, in February 1912, which after much
discussion was approved in June, giving land on the 'Benguela Plateau' for the
settlement of Jewish families. Contacts established with Israel Zangwill's Jewish
Territorial Organization (ITO) led to geologist professor John Walter Gregory, from
Glasgow University, being sent to explore the region in 1912, looking for settlement
conditions. In September of that year, Gregory was among those who signed, with
Norton de Matos, the Huambo 'Foundation Act'. The project, however, never
He also wanted more resources to assure food supplies in already 'pacified' areas.
Telegram from Governador-geral to Ministro das Colónias, 19 February 1915, AHM, Caixa
26, document 1. Catholic missionary sources estimated one third of southern Angola
population died during the 1916 famine. Costa, Cem anos, 383.
materialized.97 Also in 1912, another scientific mission was sent to the Benguela
plateau by an 'Italian Union for Enterprises in West Africa'. A report by Professor
Taruffi of Pisa University was aimed at selecting the best land for the projected
migration of thousands of Italians, but organizers then gave up the project.98
By the turn of the century, migration from Europe to old and new tropical
colonies was seen as a possible solution to domestic problems. But only the
healthiest areas in Africa were supposed to allow the 'white race' to thrive without
loosing its qualities and genetic distinctiveness. In Angola that meant to leave the
coastal zone and go higher and further eastwards. If 'newcomers' to Africa like 'the
English' had built cities such as Bulawayo, Salisbury or Umtali 'with thousands of
white inhabitants that are said to live European-style lives there', certainly in Angola
a good place could be found, served by the railway.99 In years to come, ambitious
projects that envisaged hundreds of white families flocking to 'the healthy plateau'
from rural Portugal all failed, without ever destroying the idea.100 But white
settlement in Huambo and neighbouring zones developed slowly until the Second
Wolf Terló and Alfredo Bensaúde, whose family had important businesses in Angola,
were among the founders of the Lisbon Zionist group. Wolf Terló, 'Projecto de colonização
israelita no Planalto de Angola', Boletim do Comité Israelita de Lisboa, (Set. 1912), 39-46.
See J. Medina and J. Barromi, 'O projecto de colonização judaica em Angola. O debate em
Portugal da proposta da ITO, 1912-1913', Clio, 6 (1987-88), 79-101; Rebelo Espanha, O
Planalto de Benguela (Lisbon, c. 1930), 8. For contemporary discussions, see Jornal de
Benguela, 26 March 1913, 3, assuring that Benguela merchants 'welcomed Jewish
colonization' but Dr. Nascimento was ill informed on the plateau conditions (see below). On
another failed project of Jewish migration to Angola, in the 1930s, see Ansgar Schäfer,
'Terra prometida no Império? Os projectos para uma colonização israelita de Angola',
História, 9 (1995), 32-45.
Dino Taruffi, 'L'Altiplano di Benguella (Angola) ed il suo avvenire agricolo',
L'Agricoltura Coloniale, (Florence, 1916). Published in Portugal without the original
illustrations: 'O Planalto de Benguela e o seu futuro agrícola', BSGL, 36 (1918), 7-9, 185226.
Adolpho Sarmento, 'Sanatórios em África' ('Healthy resorts in Africa') partially
republished in Portugal em África, 82 (1900), 517-9. He suggested Libolo, south of the
Kwanza but not too far from the Luanda-Ambaca railway.
See paper submitted in 1938 to the International Congress of Geography, in Amsterdam:
Carlos Roma Machado Maia, Os Melhores Locais de Angola e Moçambique para a Vida
das Famílias Portuguesas com Residência Perpétua e para Estadia de 10 anos no Máximo
(Lisbon, 1938).
World War and settlers were much more involved in trade and services than in
agriculture or industry.
The meaning of being a 'settler', however, has to be clarified for different times
and places. The Portuguese who colonized Angola in the twentieth century were not
a homogeneous community and divisions by wealth, status or literacy levels were
evident.101 Even more important was the diversity of historical experiences in the
colonization of Angola, which also affected the way Africans from different regions
interacted with Europeans. In the southern port of Moçâmedes (now Namibe), where
for decades colonization was made with white families, the ratio between men and
women allowed the development of a significant 'white' community. On Angola's
central plateau, however, the dispersed settlement of white men and almost no white
women until the beginning of the century, favoured an old pattern of relationships
with African powers, often reinforced by marriage with a daughter or a relative of the
nearest chief. The foreigner would be authorized to build, at a convenient distance,
the houses for him and his dependents (wives, concubines and servants or slaves),
with parcels of land to be cultivated for subsistence or for trade. These Europeans
learnt Umbundu and were more often than not involved in local politics. For some
years after the conquest of Wambu this old pattern survived among European
merchant-settlers there, despite attempts by the colonial state to concentrate them in a
'proper white settlement'.
Among settlers, deportees (degredados) sent from Portugal and other
Portuguese colonies to Angola until the 1930s have the attention of scholars.
However, they were a minority among the white population at large and deportees'
presence was less important in central and southern Angola than it was in Luanda
See Castelo, Passagens. On their more politicized segments, Pimenta, Angola.
and its hinterland.102 Some had been persecuted because of political dissidence,
opposition to landlords, disobedience, or vagrancy. Others had committed a variety
of crimes, but nothing prevented them from blending into the world emerging from
the slave trade, military expeditions and colonial conquest. Deportees, criminals or
illiterate settlers have often been blamed for the brutality and backwardness of
Portuguese colonial rule.103 There is no evidence, however, that settlers' class,
education, 'morals' or national origin made a great difference in the way African
subjects were mistreated in colonies of white settlement. The relationship between
colonizers and colonized did not necessarily improve with 'better born' or educated
settlers. Local economic, political and social circumstances, not to mention Africans'
attitudes, were more important factors.104
The foundation of the city of Huambo was mainly the result of two convergent
factors: the imperial decision to make central Angola a land for Portuguese
settlement and the more mundane decision about the location of the railway line. The
state and the Benguela Railways Company established, from the very beginning, an
indissoluble yet uncomfortable relationship. In 1902, Governor Cabral Moncada
created the 'Posto do Huambo, including the territories of Hambo [sic], Sambo and
Moma', under the Bailundo administration.105 In 1907, Paiva Couceiro appointed a
technical commission, coordinated by Dr. José Pereira do Nascimento, to study the
potentialities of the region and, after its first reports, the governor created a 'Military
Command of Huambo' (including Huambo, Sambo and Cuíma) under direct control
of Benguela. Dr. Nascimento's activism and successive publications urging the
Clarence-Smith, Third Portuguese Empire, 106; Newitt, Portugal in Africa, 150-2.
Bender, Angola, 59-94, is an example of such view, despite other merits of his book.
See, for example, Sybille Küster, African Education in Colonial Zimbabwe, Zambia and
Malawi: Government Control, Settler Antagonism and African Agency, 1890-1964
(Hamburg, 1999); Carol Summers, Colonial Lessons: Africans' Education in Southern
Rhodesia, 1918–1940 (Oxford, 2002).
Provincial Ordinance 474, 4 November 1902.
plateau's colonisation were not matched, his critics said, by his knowledge of the
The 1910 regime change in Lisbon only briefly disrupted existing plans and in
1912 Norton de Matos resumed the project of white settlement on the plateau based
on the 1907-9 commission reports. Five hundred Portuguese families were supposed
to be sent there over, in ten years, a considerable number by Portuguese standards. At
least one family member should be literate, which was not easy in rural Portugal. The
state would provide each family with a house, farm buildings and 25 hectares of
land, seeds, pigs, chicken and cattle for working the fields, all to be paid from the
settlers' expected profits after three years. It would pay for irrigation, for the clearing
of the land and some equipment. It was assumed that after ten years state intervention
would no longer be needed to sustain colonization.
Ambitious and unrealistic plans like that were eventually abandoned, but the
idea of making central Angola the main zone for white settlement in order to
alleviate poverty in Portugal and as an alternative to emigration to Brazil persisted
through the colonial period.107 Despite settlement plans, Huambo would most
probably have been like other towns along the railway, had it not been for Norton de
Matos's imperial vision, willpower and decisiveness. However, the prospect of a
great urban centre on the plateau and its location were not his idea, despite what he
later wrote.108
White settlement plans did not imply the existence of a central city in that
precise location, which was still no more than a resting point for Boers' ox wagons
Relatório da Missão de Estudos da Colonização do Planalto de Benguella 1907-1909
(Loanda, 1910). Benguela newspapers voiced criticism: see agronomist Alfredo de Andrade
and others in Jornal de Benguela, 19 March 1913, 5, calling Nascimento 'Sr. Maravilhas'
('Mr. Miracle'). Also 2 April 1913, 3.
For instance, Espanha, O Planalto. For more 'rural' settlement schemes (before 1961) see
Bender, Angola, 95-107.
Matos, Memórias, II, 125-127. His Provincial Ordinance 1040, 8 August 1912 creating a
city in Huambo explicitly mentioned the initiative of Benguela district government.
on the Caconda-Bié cart road opened during the 1890 campaign against Viye. A
more recent road, between the small fortresses of Kisala and Sambu, crossed it.109
The place was known in Umbundu as ombila yo ngombe ('the oxen's grave') because
many oxen died there, apparently of exhaustion.110 Bailundo to the north, Bié to the
east, Sambo to the southeast and Caconda to the southwest, had everything to capture
the interest of European settlers and already had more Portuguese merchants living
there.111 As for Benguela traders and governors, they were more interested in
exploring, through the Caconda route, Ngangela lands towards the Zambezi, from
where rubber came. But in 1911, a civil Circunscrição took the place of the military
post at Huambo, with a Municipal Commission supposedly meeting every week at
Kisala. But there was no town at all and the Commission members were scattered
over a vast area, so meetings in the fortress soon became irregular. Contrary to later
versions of the events, Kisala was not the cradle of the city, born about five
kilometres away.112
The main factor in the location of Huambo and a string of smaller towns across
central Angola was the new direction of the projected railway from Lobito Bay to the
newly developing Katanga mining region in the Belgian Congo. It made sense to
build a town near that point from where, after 'the last step' to the high plateau, the
train crossed more level regions. But trading houses in Benguela and civil servants in
Usual caravan routes were obviously pedestrian, with a few suitable for 'boi-cavalo' (an
ox trained to be ridden like a horse) or mules. Another cart road connected Caconda and Bié
through Ngalange. For 1890, see map in Paiva, Artur de Paiva. A detailed traveller's map of
1903 still does not indicate cart roads to Kisala, Mbalundu or Kahala. See Pimentel, Investigação.
See Father Keiling, Voz, 21 September 1936, 34.
The great number of Europeans in Sambu and the importance of hut tax and mail
movement were, in 1911, invoked to claim the appointment of a European sergeant (instead
of a less graduate African) as responsible for the small fort. ANA, Códice 9,512. See also
Costa, Cem anos, 232.
See Horácio Domingues 'Monografia histórica', Voz, 13 October 1945 and 20 October
westernmost towns were openly opposed to urban development in the far interior,
fearing diversion of their own trade and resources.
Benguela Railways, or the Companhia do Caminho de Ferro de Benguela
(CCFB), entered Angolan history in the middle of a political scandal. In November
1902, the Portuguese government agreed with Scottish engineer Robert Williams a
concession that granted a British company the building and exploitation (for 99
years) of a railway across Angola, from the ocean to the eastern frontier. Former
plans from Portuguese entrepreneurs were dismissed, prompting a nationalist outcry.
The Benguela Railways was founded on 23 May 1903 and construction began in
1904, but discussions on its route lasted for years. At the height of wild rubber trade,
the most obvious zones to serve were in south-central and south-eastern Angola,
heading for Barotseland (present-day Zambia, by then controlled by the British South
Africa Company). But the Katanga copper mines were Williams' objective and he
eventually got permission to proceed with the railway north of the 12th parallel. It
was that move which decided the future of Huambo.113
One of the building contractors responsible for the 1,347 kilometres of railroad,
the many bridges and the modern harbour at Lobito Bay, was, after 1910, Pauling &
Co. - whose name survived in Huambo's 'Bairro da Pólingue'. Griffiths & Co. built
the first and more difficult section of the line, bringing to Angola a number of Indian
For passionate debates in the press about the concession given to Williams, see Perda de
Angola. A Concessão Williams (Lisbon, 1903). See also Alberto A. Teixeira, Angola
Intangível (Notas e Comentários) (Porto, 1934), 483-98; Ernesto de Vasconcellos, 'Génese
do Caminho de Ferro de Benguela', BSGL, 9-10 (1929), 330-1; Roma Machado,
'Inauguração do Caminho de Ferro de Benguela e primeira travessia de África em caminho
de ferro promovida pela respectiva Companhia', BSGL, 11-12 (1929), 362-386. Caminho de
Ferro de Benguela (ed.), Benguela Railways and the Development of Southern Africa
(Luanda, 1988), 9-30. Hutchinson and G. Martelli, Robert's People: The Life of Sir Robert
Williams, Bart., 1860-1938 (London, 1971). Gregory Pirio called the concession 'a turning
point in Portuguese policy toward Angola' because Minister Teixeira de Sousa broke the
resistance against foreign investment in Portuguese colonies. See Pirio, 'Commerce', 124.
workers. Five hundred men from Liberia were also brought to work on the port and
the railway, before Angolan labour was considered sufficient and fit for the job.114
During the First World War, railway construction got stuck in the centre of
Angola and then it suffered financial constraints and was caught in the middle of
economic disputes in central and southern Africa. It resumed only in 1920 and finally
reached, in 1929, the new Angola-Congo frontier that had been moved eastwards in
1927, adding one hundred kilometres to the line to be built. 115 But in the 1930s the
world economy and the Katanga mines were decaying and Robert Williams and the
CCFB shareholders did not have what they dreamed of: 'It is unfortunate that this
railway … should be finished at a moment when copper is a glut on the market, and
output has been reduced to something like 30 percent of the normal output'.116 In the
meantime, however, the railway had contributed to the transformation of a huge part
of Angola.
The CCFB was granted preferential rights to mines which might be discovered
on both sides of the line, but nothing interesting was found and in September 1913
another agreement was signed: the company was given fifty land concessions of five
thousand hectares each, transmissible to third parties after Government authorization.
Claiming that cattle ranching needed bigger estates, the company in 1919 got the
land concessions reduced to five but of fifty thousand hectares each. Then the CCFB
José d'Almada, Para a História do Caminho de Ferro de Benguela (Lisbon, 1951), 50.
For photographic evidence, Griffiths & Company Contractors Limited, Photographic Album
(London, 1907).
From July 1929 trains ran between Lobito and the frontier, but the Benguela Railway had
to wait for the Katanga railway to be completed for the first international train to connect
Lobito to Elisabethville (Lubumbashi) in May 1931. The first train carrying copper ore from
Katanga to be exported through Lobito harbour arrived in June. Benguela Railways, 30-1.
G. H. Bullock, Economic Conditions in Angola (Portuguese West Africa): Report by G.
H. Bullock, His Majesty's Consul General (London, 1932), 29. For the Angola-KatangaZambia connections, see Simon Katzenellenbogen, Railways and the Copper Mines of
Katanga (Oxford, 1973). See also G. W. Clarence-Smith 'Les investissements belges en
Angola 1912-1961', Entreprises et Entrepreneurs en Afrique (XIXe et XXe siècles) (Paris,
1983), I, 423-41.
made a concession contract with the Zambezia Exploring Co. through the Angola
Estates Ltd.117
Although not identical to territorial chartered companies, the powerful
economic position of CCFB gave it leverage directly to influence Lisbon and it was
sometimes a difficult partner for Huambo administrators. Despite the huge gap
between top and bottom wages, its employees were privileged vis-à-vis the same
level of workers employed elsewhere. Even Norton de Matos had to be flexible while
dealing with such powerful partners. When the High Commissioner ruled against
labour emigration from Angola to neighbouring colonies, he allowed temporary
exceptions 'to the contract of native workers to be employed in the extension of
Angolan railways' beyond Angolan frontiers, which could only be the case of
Benguela Railways.118
In 1910, on the eve of the Republic, the railway had reached the western
fringes of the plateau and 'towns for the European population' were a matter of
urgency for the colonial state. In July the railway inspector, Roma Machado, was in
Luanda with other members of a commission discussing land issues related to the
Benguela Railways' yard in Lobito. Governor-General Alves Roçadas then appointed
another commission to study localities for urban centres along the railroad. Headed
by Machado, it included representatives of the Benguela administration, Benguela
traders and the CCFB.119
Teixeira, Angola intangível, 492-3. Norton de Matos later wrote: 'In those days, all
enterprises in Africa, whether they be in trade or transportation sectors, were obsessed by
becoming great land owners': Memórias, II, 125.
Decree 73, 17 November 1921. Matos, A Província, 246-7.
Carlos Roma Machado, 'Início e fundação da cidade do Huambo', BAGC, Lisbon, 2 (7),
1926, 30-59. Machado, a military engineer whose African career began in 1897 in
Mozambique, came to Angola in the early twentieth century. He had high positions as
colonial inspector of public works and of the railways, enjoying good relations with the
CCFB. An active fellow member of the Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa and international
colonial organizations, he intervened in colonial congresses and published several articles
and books. Not a Republican himself, he nonetheless shared Norton's vision of colonization
of the 'healthy plateau' and of urban modernity.
Travelling to Huambo, Roma Machado, Mariano Machado (CCFB) and
António da Costa (a Benguela trader), joined the military chief of Kisala, Luís
Patacho, and inspected the area thoroughly. Three locations for the future city were
considered: near the fortress; on the Kaululu elevation where Costa was about to
install a branch of his business; and the ombila yo ngombe plateau where a Catholic
Mission had a few buildings. The latter was preferred. Missionaries decided to leave,
partly because they disliked being near the railroad, partly because the state did not
assure them property rights on the land they occupied. The CCFB got a concession of
one thousand hectares for its station yard and buildings, about nine hundred metres
from the mission site.120
The new Republican government dismissed Roma Machado from his job and
he went to Moçâmedes, but was called back by late 1911 or early 1912. Benguela
governor Romeiras de Macedo wanted him to advise a new commission on the
projected city in Huambo, so they went and again the area of the former Catholic
Mission was chosen. It was a rather level plateau of three by two kilometres, near
good sources of water, with no mosquitoes and relatively free from termites, a great
enemy of Angola's house builders. Machado elaborated the city plan and a new
interim Benguela governor, Goes Pinto, added a report and sent it to the GovernorGeneral for approval.
Norton de Matos, recently arrived, wished to give visibility to great state
projects and the utopian plan of Machado certainly suited him.121 On 8 August 1912
he signed the ordinance creating Cidade do Huambo, at kilometer 426 of the railway.
Despite minor contradictions in his successive versions, Machado's testimony is
essential. Carlos Roma Machado, 'A Cidade do Huambo. Primeira cidade portugueza no
Planalto de Benguela', Revista de Engenharia Militar, Lisbon, 18 (1913), 396-412 and 471486. Carlos Roma Machado Maia, Recordações de África (Lisbon, 1930). Also Machado
article in Jornal de Benguela, 13 August 1943, reproduced in Voz, 27 October 1945.
On Norton's first period in Angola, see Maria Alexandre Dáskalos, A política de Norton
de Matos para Angola 1912-1915 (Coimbra, 2008). Interesting for other aspects, it is
however ill-informed about Huambo's foundation and poorly researched on economic
City and railway station were both inaugurated by the Governor and his selected
guests on 21 September, with some pomp, despite the poor appearance of the very
few first buildings, including the Municipal Council in a pre-fabricated wood house.
Artur de Castro Soromenho, the first Administrador of the Huambo Circunscrição,
held office until 1921.122
Huambo, on a vast open space at the centre of a network of roads and the
railway, was conceived by a colonial power no longer concerned with military issues
but with European settlement, trade and political control. It symbolized a new era; it
did not evolve from a previous commercial or military outpost, neither was it built over
or near the capital of a precolonial kingdom. In fact, the contrast with the old
Ovimbundu capitals could not be greater. As we have seen, olombala were normally
built on steep hills, many with giant rocks, others featuring strong palisades, with
labyrinthine paths to royal residences. Furthermore, while Huambo was at the
crossroads of important trade routes, the caravans normally kept their distance from the
olombala, fearing the risks of extra fines or robbery. Ovimbundu kings seemed to
prefer it that way, rather than having hundreds or thousands of armed men nearby.
They received the established gifts sent by caravan leaders to the ombala and
sometimes paid a visit to the camp.
The ambition of marking the landscape with something modern and never
before seen in Angola was evident in the 1912 plan drawn up by Machado, whose
basic lines still survive in the 'noble area' of Huambo civic centre and a few more
See Matos, Memórias, II, 125-7. The name Cidade do Huambo or simply Huambo was
officially changed in 1928 (Decree 15,917, 1 September) to Nova Lisboa and the new Carta
Orgânica established it as the capital of Angola, but that change in status never happened.
In time, Nova Lisboa became widely used but the original city name was also popular and it
became again its official name after 1975. As noted before, I will use Huambo to refer to the
city, adding the needed specification while referring to the Concelho, Circunscrição or
areas, despite many changes in subsequent decades (see map 5).123 The city plan was
visibly inspired by the 'garden-city' model although neither Machado nor Norton
used the expression. It included residential and industrial zones, a civic centre far
from the station for freight trains and main trading activities, several gardens and
parks protecting the existing sources of clear water, three great marketplaces, spaces
for leisure activities and agricultural areas not far from the city. Also present in the
plan were hospitals, schools, hotels, military barracks and a parade place, a police
station and prisons. Residential areas were supposed to follow what Machado called
'the English system': large streets in front of the houses and more narrow streets at
their back, 'for the natives, for cleaning activities and for the sewage system'.124 But
the high costs of building in town led many white settlers to stay away and those who
built in town often failed to comply with urban regulations.
Great expectations justified the grandeur, since the city, according to Machado,
was envisaged as a centre of white population and a future health resort for
Europeans from throughout Angola and the Belgian Congo, an agricultural centre for
European settlement, a big commercial centre, a concentration point for district
authorities and civil servants, and a future industrial centre, using electricity
generated by the Kunyongamwa river falls and with repair shops for ox-wagons and
automobiles, metalworkers and cabinetmakers workshops, mills and so on, not to
mention the main CCFB workshops.125
Huambo not only fulfilled but also exceeded many of those high expectations,
although only some decades later. One important function, however, was not
foreseen in Machado's plan in those years of republican anti-clerical sentiment:
Huambo as a great Catholic centre. For decades, whites and blacks alike went to the
Compare the city plans (1912 and 1946), aerofotogrametric images of 1953, aerial photos
of 1970s and current Google satellite images.
Machado, 'Início', 50.
For this and the next paragraphs about aspects of the plan, Machado, 'Início', 46-51.
Kwando Mission for marriages, baptisms, etc., because despite growing Catholic
influence, no physical structure indicated such influence in town until the 1940s.126
The planned civic centre was basically a great circular place from where nine
avenues radiated. It included administration offices, banks, court and the post office,
as well as a theatre, library, hotels and even a casino: all the amenities for an urban
'civilized' life. It was intended to serve not only the Portuguese but other Europeans
in central Africa needing a relaxing healthy place. It is just one of the ironies of
Huambo's history that for decades most of the white settlers coming to the zone were
people who certainly were more comfortable at a tavern than at the theatre or the
The Municipal Council (Câmara Municipal) would face the passenger trains
station north of the civic centre.127 Machado dismissed the idea of building north of
the railway, where he put the 'sanitary dependencies': an abattoir and a crematorium,
a public wash-house, the municipal barn, the kiln to burn rubbish, a deposit for the
sewage system and sewage treatment works. As in any urban place, human waste
was a problem. The imagined sewage system would use a combination of septic
tanks, cesspits and sewage channelled to the north where the small river Kusavi
would receive the liquid after treatment. However, Machado's instructions were not
followed and the springs and small rivers was quickly polluted by human and animal
waste usually abandoned on empty spaces.128
The main direction of the winds justified the planned location of health resorts
in one extreme and 'the native quarter', the cemetery and sanitary installations in the
other. A water deposit would keep the water pumped from the three rivers and a
See Chapter 5.
CCFB finally decided to use the same station for passengers and goods, in its concession.
The Municipality moved to the old Mission's place where the Governor's palace was
planned and the palace was built facing the great circular place and reinforcing the political
weight of that space.
Machado, Os melhores locais, 6, footnote 1.
bathhouse would be installed nearby to serve people using the playing fields. The
former vegetable garden of the Mission near the Kunjevi river would be the centre of
a great experimental state farm. A workers' quarter (bairro operário) was planned
(for the 'civilized' labour force) near the industrial workshops, facing a municipal
market and the prison buildings. Further east there was the 'native quarter' (bairro
indígena), rather distant from the European residential area but not too far, so
workers could be in time for their daily duties. 'Facing the native quarter and
opposite to the contagious diseases' hospital, would be the cemetery and its
crematorium and the space for an all-faiths church like the Blantyre church'.129
The plan signalled a few houses where families once related to the Mission
lived. Most of the 'natives' were supposed to live in villages scattered outside the city
limits, but their essential role to the city's economy was widely reflected in the space
given to traders: an entire 'quarter for bartering and trading with the natives' and for
receiving and exporting goods through the railway was 'isolated from the central part'
of the town. Merchants were expected to build on stands located between the two
avenues parallel to the railway. In the meantime (in fact, it lasted for some years) the
CCFB gave merchants 'special conditions' to build temporary warehouses in its
concession, since many traders had no means to build according to the city's high
standards. Against planners' intentions, the railway station rapidly became a second
pole around which the town grew, first with commercial activities and then with
residential and leisure areas: it was (and remains) 'downtown' (Baixa). The city area
around the civic centre and along some of the planned avenues became Alta.130
Machado, 'Início', 50. It is possible that Machado visited Blantyre while serving in
Mozambique. In the early twentieth century, prospects of European settlement on the Shire
plateau of Nyasaland and the coming of the railway in 1907 provided ground for
comparison. See John McCracken 'Blantyre transformed: Class, conflict and nationalism in
urban Malawi', JAH, 39 (1998), 247-69.
The English word 'uptown' does not convey the idea of civic centre and seat of
From the very beginning, house construction was supposed to follow strict
guidelines, explicitly avoiding examples of chaotic and unhealthy older colonial
towns like Benguela. Residences in town should comply with 'modern hygiene
practices' and have a 'civilization mark' much superior to the 'native' residences. So
the rather common use of mud bricks or wattle and daub, thatched roofs or anything
similar to 'typical native houses' was not allowed, except on the outskirts.131 The idea
was to keep black people out of the town but the result was to send many white
people there too, as they could not afford better construction material. A 'native
quarter' would be created 'clearly apart' from the town and prevented from
developing the characteristics of an overcrowded 'native village' without proper
streets or 'hygiene and cleanliness'. The Huambo administrative staff should do their
best to 'create a type of native house, solid and at least respecting the most
elementary hygiene conditions'.
As so often happens, life did not respect law. A vivid description of Huambo's
'downtown' in its first decade comes from a settler's testimony in a commemorative
issue of the local newspaper:
In those days the city began where today is the Companhia Geral de Angola.
From there started the 5 de Outubro Avenue, beginning with two corrugated
iron constructions (barracões de zinco) and one wattle and daub house: they
were two single-storey shops and a hotel with its own shop. The railway ran
parallel to the avenue … and on the other side of the line, considered the city
outskirts, there were wattle and daub houses roofed with corrugated iron …
Where nowadays is Rua do Comércio was then a mass of native huts; in that
neighbourhood the famous Luiz Gomes Sambo caught peoples' attention with
his benevolent school and the old brass band, in the house that is still there …
And that was city downtown (a Baixa da cidade)…132
The mention of Luiz Gomes Sambo, whose house was certainly not a hut and
survived the expansion of the city north of the railway, is important. A 'civilized'
Ordinance 1,086, 21 August 1912.
Francisco da Silva Martins, 'Do Huambo a Nova Lisboa' Voz, 31 March 1934. Avenida 5
de Outubro (5 October) whose name evoked the 1910 republican revolution, was the great
avenue parallel to the railway.
native of Cabinda, Sambo had served in the army, became a regedor in Balombo,
took part in the military campaign against Bimbe in 1904, and then resumed his
civilian life. In September 1912, he was the only black person signing the
'Foundation Act' with the Governor-General. Luiz Sambo's brass band of about
twenty people performed from Huambo to Lobito, and his expertise in herbal
remedies was famous.133
Of the first black inhabitants of the city (in a broad sense) a few were local, but
most came to Huambo following the Catholic mission, the railway and European
traders, or just attracted by the opportunities human concentration creates. These
people were also among the 'founders' of the city, although almost ignored by history
as retold many times in the years to come.134 Father Blanc, the pioneer of the
Catholic Mission, arrived in June 1910 from Caconda with six married couples who
built the 'native village' and the mission's premises on an empty place, with the help
of people from two villages 'somewhere in the direction of the Kusava river'.135
When missionaries left for Kwando, not everybody from the Christian village
followed them. Also when the bulk of the CCFB engineers and workers went further
east building the line, 'Pauling town' did not disappear completely and became one of
the first quarters out of the planned city: the 'Bairro da Pólingue'.
In the late 1920s, when Huambo was officially renamed Nova Lisboa, High
Commissioner Vicente Ferreira ordered a revised urban plan to include recent
developments (previously authorized or unauthorized) without changing much of the
basic pattern. The next big urbanization plan was in the 1940s, by the staff of the
See his interview in Voz, 31 March 1934.
Every September the local newspaper was full of accounts of commemorative
ceremonies, memoirs and the like. Military feats, settler endurance and initiative, pioneering
missionary work, Norton de Matos's great vision and the Railway Company, all were
praised as having fathered the city, depending on the prevailing political mood.
Father Blanc, 'A chegada da Cruz a Nova Lisboa', Traço de União. Deus e Pátria.
Mensário da Liga Educativa e Instrutiva dos Alunos das Missões, [hereafter Traço], August
1949, 1; idem, March 1950, 1. See also Costa, Cem anos, 227.
new Overseas Urbanization Office (Gabinete de Urbanização do Ultramar) in
Lisbon, who were surprised by streets and squares' dimensions in a city of only 3,442
white and mixed-race 'civilized inhabitants'. The new city plan kept much of the old
one, but clearly accepted the development of dual town centres (the civic centre and
the commercial downtown) (see map 6). It also added new residential zones or
provided new infrastructures to already existing ones, added more 'native' quarters
and suppressed some areas once imagined for tourism, hotels and green parks.136
Patterns of commercial occupation in central Angola did not change immediately
after the 1902 war. Africans and Europeans were, for the most part, living in a world
still dominated by non-written commercial rules established long ago in that region.
The old system of credit and permuta (barter) continued and business was still very
much conducted through personal agreement between the European (or 'civilized'
African) trader and the head of the nearest village, often reinforced by 'marriage' with
one of his daughters, nieces or pawns. Consolidation of colonial rule and railway and
road expansion inevitably modified the distribution of population and their ways of
living, repelling some but attracting others. European traders and African producers
were mutually influencing each other in the choice of settlement spaces: the
spontaneous or forced population movements motivated the opening of new shops
and these attracted more people to come and build houses or entire villages nearby.
Visions of white settlement and production at the core of the colony's economic
development were out of touch with the reality in central Angola, where African
production was the source of economic prosperity and where the bulk of Portuguese
immigrants turned to commercial activities.
See Domingues, 'Monografia', Voz, 17 November 1945. For this new plan see next
The image of an overall and irreversible decline following the loss of political
autonomy by the VaWambu and other Ovimbundu peoples has to be challenged.
Political decline was obvious: their surviving chiefs went through a process of
subalternization, manipulation and abuse that left little of their prestige intact, despite
(or perhaps because of) being used by the Portuguese administration to control
people. On the economic side, the picture was rather different. After a short period of
recession, the resurgence and expansion of agriculture and local trade, namely in
maize and beans, boosted by the railway after 1910, tell a story of relative success.
Even Protestant missionaries, often in the front line of denouncing the burden of
taxation and forced labour on Ovimbundu peasants, did not consider the overall
economic situation as one of impoverishment during the 1920s and the 1930s. It was
later that
the rural population of central Angola experienced growing
impoverishment, under the combined effects of white settlement, growing labour
demands from European farming, mining and fisheries, and ecological strain due to
deforestation, population growth and more intensive farming without adequate soil
The planned Cidade do Huambo embodied an ideal of colonization that
associated progress with railways, roads, residential concentration in healthy
structured spaces, and reinforced state control over territory and population. The
powerful Benguela Railways Company was, from the inception of the city, a
problematic partner in colonial projects but one whose economic and social influence
can never be underestimated. More than simply a railway town, Huambo was meant
to prove Portugal's colonial ability by being a landmark of modernity in its richest
colony. Or so the newly-appointed Governor Norton de Matos and a few other
thought. In Angola those prospects faced the lack of financial and human resources,
not to mention the resistance of old ways of trading, housing and managing labour.
A fundamental partner in the city's future development was conspicuously
absent from the inauguration ceremony in September 1912 and even from the
original city plan: the Catholic Church. This was rather unusual, given the central
place of a Catholic church in every large or small Portuguese town, and expressed
the radical republican anti-clericalism of those days. But the Church later got its
revenge, as we will see in Chapter 4.
The three decades following the creation of Cidade do Huambo in 1912 witnessed
the height of colonial power in Africa. Portuguese colonial experiments in Angola
were much in line with other colonized areas, with the involvement of foreign
companies compensating for Portugal’s economic weakness. Differences certainly
existed, even inside each colony, depending upon the dominant economic activities,
on Africans’ response to colonial rule and on the demographic and economic weight
of white settlers. Once territorial conquest and partition was complete,
administration and exploitation by Europeans was facilitated by the extension of
roads, ports and railways. Control of African labour included in many colonies the
use of passes and labour 'contracts' as well as indirect control through 'traditional'
chiefs, whether legitimate by tradition or created for the purpose. Legislation
reinforced race segregation everywhere and made it more difficult for non-whites to
become citizens of the states they were supposed to belong to, even where it had
once been otherwise, like in Angola or Senegal. In the colonial discourse, hygiene
and sanitation, education and demographic policies were all means of controlling the
African population.
The early twentieth century was also a time of intense change, not always
welcomed or even expected by the colonizers. In the 1920s, as Frederick Cooper
reminds us, while Europeans were seeing an Africa of 'bounded and static tribes',
peasants were moving to new lands, miners were moving back and forward between
villages and mining centers, farmers were linking up to urban food markets as well
as to export markets. However, colonial officials were moving towards a policy
aimed 'to conserve African societies in a colonizers' image of sanitized tradition,
slowly and selectively being led toward evolution, while the empire profited from
peasant crop production or the output of mines and settlers farms'.1
During its first thirty years, Huambo developed slowly, whether we consider
its buildings, the provision of water, electricity and other services, or its white
population. The black population was growing faster, due to new job opportunities
and a desire to escape from rural constraints, old and new, although most still lived
in a village-like environment out of the town. This chapter examines how the
defined frontier between town and countryside that urban regulations tried to
enforce could not prevent the dynamic symbiotic relationship between the two. It
also discusses the completion of the process of making 'natives' out of subjugated
people, an essential element of the colonial situation in Africa.
Republicans, High Commissioners and Salazarism
Between the proclamation of the Republic in Portugal in 1910 and the 'Colonial Act'
issued by the authoritarian Salazar regime in 1930, Angola had a dozen governors
and went through important changes.2 Uncertainty about whether to call it a colony
or a province and contradictions about the empire's role in the Portuguese economy
were no obstacle to laws reinforcing the inferior status of most of the population.3
The Republican years consolidated the legal distinction between 'natives' (indígenas)
and 'civilized' citizens, culminating in the 1926 Native Statute. Some colonial
experiments like decentralization were short-lived, but much of the colonial
legislation of this period survived until 1961 with few changes.
Frederick Cooper, Africa since 1940: The Past of the Present (Cambridge, 2002), 18.
Instability in Portugal had worsened during the First World War and on 28 May 1926 a
coup d'état installed military rule followed a few years later by a fascist-like regime. See
Alexandre, 'The Colonial Empire', 41-59. For a synthesis on Angola through the period, see
Aida Freudenthal 'Angola', in Oliveira Marques (ed.), O Império Africano 1890-1930
(Lisbon, 2001), 259-467.
Reflecting a shift in colonial doctrine, from 1911 to 1951 the Overseas Ministry became
the Ministry of the Colonies although 'Overseas Provinces' lingered in some legislation. See
Maria C. Proença, A questão Colonial no Parlamento (1910-1926) (Lisbon, 2008).
After the First World War, under international pressure for the development of
colonial territories, Lisbon appointed High-Commissioners for Angola and
Mozambique to allow white settlement colonies a greater economic and political
autonomy.4 According to some contemporary voices in Angola, the High
Commissioners 'did in ten years more than in the former one hundred years'.5
Governor Norton de Matos, who had left Angola in 1915, was back in 1920 as the
first High Commissioner of the Republic, ending his tenure in 1924 amidst
economic crisis and strong criticism both in Portugal and Angola. He undoubtedly
marked a period of colonial development in contrast with the usual conformist or
backward-looking governors. Measures of control and protection of the 'natives',
paternalistic as they were, provided some help against labour exploitation and the
invasion of arable land by companies and white settlers - whose immigration
nonetheless he promoted.6 Norton's contradictory economic project promoted capital
investment in selected industries but rejected proletarianization: Africans should
stay as peasants or small entrepreneurs, along with Portuguese white settler farmers
working their own fields.
Norton's ideas for two evolving segregated worlds were reflected in laws about
the civil service, urban space, healthcare and education, much in tune with the
dominant colonial ideology and doctrines that saw miscegenation as a disgusting
reality to be avoided as much as possible. Social care and vocational training was
Decree 6,864, 31 August 1920. High Commissioners lasted until 1930 but their powers
were restricted by the 1926 and 1928 amendments.
Alberto de Lemos, Altas Questões da Administração Colonial Portuguesa, Separata Brotéria,
4 (1947), 7-10. He praised economic growth, European settlement and 'civilisation' of the
natives, and gave numbers: between 1920 and 1930, 'whites' in Angola went from 20,000 to
more than 43,000, exports went from 70,000 tonnes (1920) to more than 130,000 tonnes (1931)
and roads doubled.
Decree 30, 26 July 1921, partially revoked the 1919 regulations that Norton de Matos
considered a setback in African land rights caused by 'the disgraceful epidemics of land
demarcations'. Matos, A Província, 255. His decrees 40 and 41 in August 1921, regulating
the use of labour, were infamous among European settlers, even after moderated by Decree
315 (August 1923).
provided to mixed-race youngsters from poor backgrounds or abandoned by their
fathers mostly to avoid the shame on the whites, a problem shared with other
colonial administrations.7 However, he stood firmly against the myths of African
'laziness' and 'natural backwardness', often stressing how important black peasants
and workers were in Angola's economy and their ability to 'evolve'.
Norton de Matos is remembered in Angola for his heavy hand against the
black and mestiço press and associations in the 1920s, after having protected them
during his first tenure in office.8 When leading figures in Luanda, Benguela and
Malanje were detained and deported under suspicions of promoting anti-Portuguese
agitation, resentment ramped up among that small elite that was also pushed down
by the creation of two separate civil service careers with different salaries, blocking
African civil servants' aspirations to high rank positions.9 More important for the
purposes of this study, however, were his Ordinances and Decrees on 'native' labour,
education, living conditions and social behaviour, including the type of housing and
the kind of clothes acceptable among urban dwellers.10
Of the utmost importance and with far-reaching consequences was the
imposition of Portuguese and the exclusion of African languages from formal
'The distinction between colonizer and colonized, rather than being self-evident, had to be
continually reproduced, which led colonial regimes to pay inordinate attention to relatively
small categories of people on crucial fault lines: racially mixed children, colonizers who
'went native'. … There was a danger of reproducing the wrong kind of colonization'.
Frederick Cooper, Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History (Berkeley, 2005),
See Eugénio M. Ferreira, As Ideias de Kimamuenho (um Intelectual Rural do Período
1918-1922) (Luanda, 1989); Aida Freudenthal, 'A utopia angolense, 1880-1915', in África e
a Instalação do Sistema Colonial, 561-72; Luísa d'Almeida, 'Nativo versus gentio?: o que
nos dizem algumas fontes africanas nos anos 1914-1922', idem, 645-54; Dáskalos, A
política, 139-55.
Decree 15, 19 May 1921.
P.O. 375, 19 April 1913 (Regulamento das Circunscrições Administrativas) and P.O.
1,224, 1 November 1914 about 'native' villages were expanded upon by P.O. 137 (1921) and
decree 227 (1922), regulating the construction, isolation and hygiene of 'native' housing,
although with little effect, except that state power was used to displace villages or to forbid
the use of certain areas. Norton de Matos, A Província, 267. Voz, 6 October 1934. P.O. 183,
27 October 1922, ordered the construction of 'native quarters' in Luanda, Lobito, Benguela
and Moçâmedes. P.O. 16, 9 January 1923, excluded 'natives' not 'dressed with decency' from
European towns.
education, along with the obligation of publishing Portuguese translations of all
religious texts. It immediately put at risk the Protestant missions' schools that had
very few Portuguese-speaking teachers. A conference of the Evangelical Missions at
Ndondi (Bela Vista, central Angola) on 15-16 May 1922, appreciated 'the large
measure of religious liberty allowed under the Portuguese Republic' and 'resolved
that the High Commissioner be asked to reconsider the question of the use of the
vernacular in school work, this use [sic] not to extend beyond the teaching of
reading, writing and study of the scriptures'.11 They were not successful and years
later Dr. Ennis of the Elende Mission vented his frustration, perhaps too
pessimistically: 'Eight years of conscientious attempt at fulfilling the conditions of
Decree 77 have all but bankrupted our educational system. Our religious education
is a memory'.12
High Commissioner Vicente Ferreira (1926-1928), chosen shortly before the
1926 military coup but officially appointed after it, favoured industrialization, was a
firm supporter of white settlement to the central plateau and considered mixing races
a source of physical, psychological and moral decadence.13 The Benguela
merchants, interested in counteracting the tendency to further limit the already
feeble autonomy of Angola, welcomed his development policy. It had, however, no
continuity, partly due to the 1930s world economic recession and partly because the
'Angola Missions Conference', minutes of the first meeting. SOAS-SC, IMC/CBMS,
Africa II, Box 1202.
Merlin Ennis, report 2 March 1929. SOAS-SC, IMC/CBMS, Africa II, Box 1203, File E2.
The Decree 77 (9 December 1921), although legally recognizing the Protestant missions'
activity, allowed only Portuguese speaking Angolans with an identity card to teach or to be in
charge of a missionary outpost, another hindrance to the Protestants.
For a collection of his articles on white settlement and Huambo/Nova Lisboa, see Vicente
Ferreira, Estudos Ultramarinos, III. Angola e os seus problemas (2ª Parte) (Lisbon, 1954).
For an enthusiastic reception of his intervention on 'the ethnic colonization of Portuguese
Africa' (Second Colonial Congress, 1944), see Portugal em África, 2ª Série, 1 (1944), 318-9.
See also Rui F. da Silva, 'No II Congresso da União Nacional: racismo e colonização étnica
de Angola', História, 9 (1995), 20-31.
new regime in Lisbon had different views.14 But during his short tenure, he got
official approval for changing the name of Huambo to Nova Lisboa, a symbol of his
great white settlement prospects.
The military coup of 28 May 1926 was not just one more in those turbulent
years and the dictatorship it initiated lasted until 1974. In 1928 the military gave
way to an elected president, Óscar Carmona, who chose as Minister of Finance
António de Oliveira Salazar who soon became the all-powerful Chief of Cabinet
(Presidente do Conselho de Ministros) under a succession of weak presidents.
Initially supported by Monarchists and right-wing Republicans, the Estado Novo
(New State), as it was called from 1933, was closely associated with Italian fascism
and German Nazism. Salazar survived much longer, however, using Portugal's
official neutrality during the Second World War and its strategic Atlantic position to
win support for his dictatorship. His regime suspended freedom of the press and free
association, including political parties, labour unions and Free Masonry, both in
Portugal and its colonies.
Preceding the 1933 Constitution, the 1930 Acto Colonial justified with the
'organic essence of the Portuguese nation' the possession and colonising of overseas
territories and the 'civilising [of] the native populations living there' (Article 2).
Soon after the coup, influential opinion makers in Benguela criticized the restriction
of settlers' privileges, noting that 'this colony had long ago ceased to be just a factory
and had become a great country in the process of formation'.15 Prospects of a
colonial state controlled by white settlers and a tiny black and mixed-race elite
Jornal de Benguela, 28 May 1926; 11 June 1926, 3; 18 June 1926, 4; on press censorship
and hopes that 'soon we will return to the constitutional rights…', idem, 31 December 1926,
1. Lisbon's dictatorship was seen as temporary and not the end of the Republican regime.
For the telegram exchange leading to Ferreira's dismissal (decree 2 November 1928), see
Jornal de Benguela, 16 November 1928.
Jornal de Benguela, 17 December 1926, 1; also 26 March 1926 (newspapers are the best
source for the white settlers' political opinions in those years); Júlio F. Pinto, Angola: Notas
e Comentários dum Colono (Lisbon, 1926), including contributions from Lieutenent
Colonel Ferreira do Amaral and J. Veloso de Castro.
vanished with the new legislation and the return of Governadores-Gerais whose role
'was to inform and to be the passive executors of ministerial decisions' from Lisbon.16
The Colonial Act (1930), the Organic Charter (1933) and the Overseas
Administrative Reform (1933) all reflected the principles of 'unity of direction' and
'administrative decentralisation' under 'constant supervision of responsibility for acts
of government and of administration' by the governmental organs in Lisbon. They
kept 'legislative specialisation', that is, different legal and juridical systems for the
metropole and its colonies, essential to the existing Native Statute and Native Courts
(see Chapter 5). Autonomy was 'not in the Portuguese tradition, perhaps because it is
not in our nature' and whenever it was tried 'we have found ourselves landed in
financial and administrative disorganisation'.17
In the 1930s the myth of Portuguese imperial vocation and destiny was
propagandized through congresses, exhibitions, newspapers and popular contests,
especially under Minister of Colonies Armindo Monteiro (1931-1935) who thought
the empire was missing a colonial doctrine for the future, a Portuguese 'Colonial
Science' anchored in the centuries-old Portuguese overseas experience.18 Against
Norton's policy of European peasant-settlers cultivating the African land, Monteiro
insisted that whites should only be supervisors and technicians ruling over black
labourers.19 His conviction that the success of colonization depended more on the
innate quality of Portuguese settlers than on capital investment matched Salazar's
financial policy of reducing colonial investment in public works and cutting costs
Lemos Altas questões, 9-10. See Pimenta, Angola, 71-165, for expectations and reactions of
white settlers in the Republican years and until the 1930s.
Armindo Monteiro, 'Portugal in Africa', Journal of the Royal African Society, 38, 151 (April
1939), 268. He was addressing the Royal African Society as the Portuguese Ambassador in
F.N. de Carvalho, 'Historiografia e propaganda colonialista do Estado Novo: a colecção
"Pelo Império" (1935-1961)', Mare Liberum, 11-12 (1996), 91-2. See also Ministério das
Colónias, Conferência dos Governadores Coloniais: Discursos e Entrevistas, (Lisbon,
1934). On Monteiro's life and influence, Pedro A. Oliveira, Armindo Monteiro: uma
Biografia Política, (Venda Nova, 2000).
Armindo Monteiro, Da Governação de Angola (Lisbon, 1935), 42-3.
with civil servants. Planned and state-funded colonization was dismissed as one of
the 'enemies' of true settlement development.20
On the brink of the Second World War, fearing for its empire, Portugal's
diplomacy presented 'integration' as part of its imperial experience and doctrine.
Monteiro, then Ambassador in London, declared 'the national unity cannot be
disputed, nor can the idea of the integration of the Natives in the national
community' despite occasional influence 'by alien systems, ideas, and judgements'.
Portugal stood against the creation of communities of different races living in
separate compartments, 'protectors and protected', with one enjoying all the rights
and the other only 'inferior rights'.21 Monteiro went further, claiming that only by
mixing the races, like in Brazil, was it possible 'to establish a new civilisation in
tropical regions, without racial antagonisms', a surprising hint of Gilberto Freyre's
lusotropicalist theory yet to be fully developed.22 Since the 'white man' would not
stay for ever in Africa as master or protector and he could not adapt himself to the
physical work in the tropics, 'the Natives or mixed races provide the natural
foundations of future societies. … the negro is the essential colonising element, and
… his gradual adaptation to the requirements of higher civilisation should constitute
the chief aim of the statesman and the administrator'. However, 'moulding' black
communities to ideas and institutions born 'in different climates and historical
conditions' would cause 'collective and individual disturbance' – and by ignoring it,
'the white man has often been in Africa an element of social anarchy and
disintegration'. Colonisation 'is slow work' and the 'natural capacities of negro races'
Armindo Monteiro, 'Inimigos da colonização: discurso proferido na inauguração da
Exposição Colonial do Porto, em Janeiro de 1934', quoted in Oliveira, Armindo Monteiro,
Monteiro 'Portugal in Africa', 262-5.
In 1937 Freyre was in Lisbon for a Congress and in 1938 he was an appointed member of
the Portuguese Academy of History. On Freyre's theory reception in Portugal, Cláudia
Castelo “O Modo Português de Estar no Mundo”: O Luso-tropicalismo e a Ideologia
Colonial Portuguesa (1933-1961) (Porto, 1998).
had a limit 'which colonisation cannot overstep without grave risks'. He considered
settlers the main factor in colonisation and Portuguese settlers as 'the first protectors
of the Natives … required to foster the preservation and development of the Native
This was, of course, a good example of doublespeak, as Salazar's 'colonial
pact' implied rejection of industrial development in the colonies and the 'integration'
policy was buried under reinforced racial discrimination. Despite the imperial
rhetoric, Portuguese emigration to Angola and Mozambique was restricted, the end
of criminals' deportation to the colonies was not enough to make the latter more
attractive than Brazil and unemployed and poor white settlers got little help from the
From Cidade do Huambo to Nova Lisboa
Until the late 1920s, Huambo as a city was defined more by its economic and
administrative functions than by any coherent urban structure: buildings were
scattered over a large area and outside the defined urban perimeter lived not only
Africans but also many Europeans. In the town's early years the administration was
dealing mainly with labour questions and occasional military issues but its prohibition
edicts revealed a range of other problems, including the widespread woodcutting and
wood trade in concessions given to European farmers, alcohol production from sweet
potatoes and corn, the circulation of Boers' oxwaggons, and the circumventing of
rules for bringing food supplies to town.25
Monteiro, 'Portugal in Africa', 265-6. He claimed 'no country today has more settlers in
Africa than Portugal': 57,000 'European Portuguese' in Angola and more than 20,000 in
Castelo, Passagens, especially Tables A.2 and A.3, based on BAGC (1927-1933).
Registo de editais 1912-1915, ANA, Códice 9,950. Boers' oxwaggons with giant wheels
and heavy loads caused problems for road maintenance and sanitation. Cf. Geoffrey J.
Williams, Lusaka and its Environs: a Geographical Study of a Planned Capital City in
Tropical Africa (Lusaka, 1986), 77.
Huambo was supposed to grow around the civic centre with the exception of
warehouses near the railway station, but other urban developments occurred while
those areas remained thinly covered by buildings. The lack of building materials was
a poor excuse since bricks and tiles were locally produced from 1913, the real
reasons being the white settlers' economic weakness and the shopkeepers' interest in
being closer to their African suppliers and clients. The CCFB building site, quarters
and workshops attracted people and merchants to its reserved area and resulted in
the 'spontaneous formation of the bairro called Pauling' and other settlements north
of the line. In 1916 Silva Contreiras & Co. made the first private construction
downtown and other traders followed, there and north of the rail line, ignoring the
town plan.26 Downtown, initially with only big warehouses, shops for 'native' clients
and a railway station that in the 1920s was still just a wooden screen ('um tapume de
madeira'), became the coveted commercial area. The population in the surrounding
areas grew faster than in the urban core of the city, which had only 115 'buildings' in
1922 and 240 in 1929.27
Although High Commissioner Norton de Matos helped 'his' city in the 1920s
through public works such as an airfield, residences for high-rank civil servants and
buildings for agriculture and veterinary technical services, the next big step in urban
development came with Vicente Ferreira (1926-1928). He commissioned a new city
plan and in 1928 officially changed its name to Nova Lisboa, considering its central
position in the territory and the prospects of intensive white settlement the main
reasons to make it the capital of Angola, as defined by the new Carta Orgânica.28
Francisco S. Martins, 'Do Huambo a Nova Lisboa', Voz, 31 March 1934 (1st Portuguese
Colonial Exhibition special number). Voz, 10 November 1945.
Jornal de Benguela, 16 July 1926, 4. Horácio Domingues, 'O desenvolvimento urbano da
cidade', Voz, 17 November 1945. Domingues was the Municipal Commission's VicePresident. He published a 'historical monograph' in the newspaper between 25 August and
16 December 1945.
See Vicente Ferreira 'A capital de Angola', in Ferreira, Estudos Ultramarinos, III, 1-25.
Also Voz, 2 October 1952.
Established interests in Luanda but also the then incipient urbanization of Huambo
explained why the capital transfer never happened. When Huambo's area was
redefined in 1930, its urban population was calculated at 5,000 (including 2,000
'whites’).29 In 1940 it was decided a new plan was needed to integrate some of the
already built illegal urban areas and to reduce the planned city area to more modest
proportions, keeping the rest as 'state reserve'.30
The city would have been even less urbanized in the 1930s if it was not for the
state buildings and the CCFB, despite the latter distorting the initial plan. Water and
sanitation were a headache for city authorities who, even using cheap labour and
detainees, struggled to cut the high wild grass, to clean the mud caused by heavy
rains and to fight poor sanitation in private backyards and unoccupied lands where
refuse was thrown away.31 Visitors were shocked by the contrast between a few nice
buildings, belonging to the state or the CCFB, and the general lack of basic 'modern'
urban structures, like 'a hospital, a garden, a social club, a police station, a public
convenience, water supplies, drinking fountains …'.32 The CCFB got a concession
for the hydroelectric use of the Kwandu river, twenty kilometres away, in exchange
of part of it for public and private consumption, but a definitive contract waited until
The 1927 plan, drawn by land surveyors Silva and Antunes, was approved in 19 March
1928: Voz, 17 November 1945. Decree 15,917, 1 September 1928, designated Nova Lisboa
to be the capital of Angola. P.O. 675, 6 November 1930, redefined the city's area which, in
August that year, the president of the Urban Commission, Artur de Morais, said to be 2,800
hectares. Voz, 30 August 1930, 1.
Voz, 21 September 1940, 6. P.O. 3,530 ordered the central Land Registry and the
Municipal Commission to do the 'definitive plan'. Voz, 30 November 1940.
Jornal de Benguela, 9 April 1926, 6; also 19 March 1926 and 16 July 1926, 4. Latrines,
not to mention modern toilets, were still not that common in the late 1920s and even in the
Hotel Estrela guests had to use chamber pots that servants would take away to dispose of the
contents somewhere. See Marcel Borle, Avec la Mission Scientifique Suisse en Angola:
Journal de Voyage [1928-1929] (La Chaux-de-Fonds, 1992-1994), Cahier II, 59.
Eurico de Figueiredo 'A cidade do Huambo. O que é necessário que se faça nela para que
acompanhe o progresso', Jornal de Benguela, 9 July 1926, 4. For a more enthusiastic view,
see Machado, 'Inauguração', 370. The head of the Urban Commission complained about the
urbanites' lack of hygiene and civic behaviour, but acknowledged the problems caused by
the lack of electricity and water supplies. Voz, 30 August 1930, 1.
December 1935.33 The barrage was able to supply electricity to the CCFB
workshops and to the Catholic Kwando mission, where the company also built and
equipped a workshop to train 'native' cabinetmakers and mechanics for the railway.34
The influence of the CCFB in the city's development went beyond the water
and electricity it provided to its own quarters and parts of the town. Its small hospital
created in 1913 was the only one for two decades and in the early 1930s one of the
three primary schools, with about 70 pupils who were mostly children of railway
employees, was subsidized by the company.35 All that power meant that the state
authorities could be bypassed by the CCFB in Luanda or Lisbon, as happened in the
case of a railway embankment that created a monstrous 'scar' parallel to one of the
main avenues, dividing the city.36
Nova Lisboa was described in a 1939 report as a twin-centred city with great
expanses of empty land, no public hospital, no proper church, poor water supplies
and dependent on the CCFB for electricity.37 By the end of 1940, the local
newspaper noted public efforts to get better water and sanitation (easier said than
done) and mentioned 'the new pre-project of the city plan'. In most zones only
cacimbas (artesian wells) and drinking fountains were used while downtown water
was still bought from the CCFB.38 The proximity of the station and the commercial
interests prevailed over state intentions and in the 1940s the Banco de Angola and
Voz, 31 May 1930, 1-2. Ministério das Colónias, Plano Geral de Urbanização de Nova
Lisboa, 1º vol.: Memória descritiva e justificativa, no. 99, vol. 1 [hereafter Memória
descritiva], 68-9, IPAD/MU 4,754.
Father Sutter, 'Huambo: Nossa Senhora das Vitórias (1910)', Bulletin de la Congrégation
[Spiritans] Tome XXII, 486 (February 1931), 55-8.
Voz, 17 November 1945. For earlier years, Martinez de Lima 'Em prol do Planalto', JB, 6
April 1928, 4-5, mentioning the CCFB projected 'native quarters' one kilometre away from
its 'workers quarters' (bairro operário). Also Voz, 6 May 1933, among others.
On the 1929-1931 conflict, see Voz, 4 August 1945, 17 November 1945, 24 November
1945 and 1 December 1945.
Alberto Macedo Margaride, 'Relatório da viagem de estudo a Angola em 1939',
Companhia do Fomento Colonial (typescript), ANTT, AOS/CO/UL–8B, [hereafter,
Margaride, 'Relatório'], 77-80.
Memória descritiva, 63 and 68-9. About public works in town, see Voz, 28 December
the Associação Comercial do Planalto de Benguela, after much controversy,
enriched downtown with their impressive two-storey buildings.39 The Alta, the
higher and elegant centre from where the city was supposed to expand, had cleaner
streets, with trees, concentrating civil and military services and institutions, the City
Council and the radio station. Peripheral urban quarters like Pauling, Benfica and
Cacilhas, not to mention the surroundings of Rua do Comércio, were expanding,
while vegetable gardens and small orchards were scattered all around.40
Despite settlers' claims, it was only in 1933 that a proper Municipal Council
replaced the Urban Commission, but poor urban services delayed until 1948 the
concession of the long-awaited foral, the town's charter which gave its Council a
greater share of tax revenue and authority over land use.41 With the usual caveats,
statistical information available gives an idea of population growth until 1940 and
how Huambo compared with other Angolan cities.42
In the next Tables, the small dimension of Angola's urban population speaks
for itself, but Huambo deserves further comment. The 1,300 'whites' living out of
town confirmed their dispersion, while the numbers and percentage of mixed-race
people among the 'civilized' (cf. Lobito and traditionally mestiça Benguela), not to
be sustained in future censuses, confirmed the frequent mixed unions or marriages in
those first decades. If it is not a surprise that more than 70 percent of the people
registered in the city limits were 'black', no explanation was found for the low
number of 'civilized blacks' compared to Benguela. It could be due to different
Voz, 21 September 1940, 6. The Ministry's architects disagreed but the 'already
established interests' won: Voz, 4 August 1945. The state owned Banco de Angola had
inaugurated its first Huambo agency in 1929.
'Urbanização de Nova Lisboa', Voz, 31 March 1934.
Voz, 12 July 1930, 11 March 1933, 26 March 1940, 1 and 3, and 20 June 1942, 1-2.
Having a European population greater than Benguela and Lobito combined was the main
argument for demanding the foral. Voz, 4 August 1945, 1 and 8.
In 1940, Huambo District had 553,669 inhabitants, Huambo concelho 166,702 , with
roughly 10 percent (16,288) in the city, which with its surroundings (Posto Sede) amounted
to 42,276 people. See Tables 1 and 2.
criteria or greater race discrimination in Huambo, but also to greater dispersion or
less job opportunities in the region.
Table 1: Population growth in Huambo Posto Sede 1933-194043
'Civilized Population'
Posto Sede
1933 1934
Total 4,546 4,567
Whites 3,236 3,196
1938 1940 1940 1933
- 6,041 4,736 13,579
5,026 4,512 3,214
1,106 1,227 1,220
Posto Sede
'Non-Civilized Population'
Posto Sede
1934 1938
NA 72,824 36,235 11,552
NA 72,824 35,963 11,326
City only
Table 2: The four main Angolan cities in 194044
'Civilized population'
Black Mixed- Other
8.944 5.606
Benguela 1.461
44,083 24,221 23,244
'Non-civilized population'
4,791 3,646,399 3,738,010
The new city plan came from the Overseas Urbanization Office (Ministry of
the Colonies) preceded by a survey in July-August 1946 largely based on
information from the municipality.45 Their definition of 'urban' space diverged from
Based on the 1940 Census and on Memória Descritiva, 42 (quoting official statistics,
based on annual taxation surveys). For 1938 incomplete data, 'Nova Lisboa: seus progressos
e melhoramentos', A Província de Angola, 15 August 1938, 1. Reduced numbers for 1940
Posto Sede are due to its territorial division to create Posto Benfica.
From the 1940 Census.
The mission was headed by architect João António de Aguiar who considered absurd the
dimensions of Huambo main squares, similar in size to those of Lisbon: Voz, 4 August
the 1940 Census, which had included the small residential areas scattered in a 6 km
radius from the town center. In 1946, they only considered the area where water and
sanitation should be provided by the City Council. On the grounds that it was hard to
establish who was 'civilized' among black people, they gave up surveying that group
and, incapable or uninterested in counting the majority of the population, simply
kept the 1940 data (around 11,500 'non-civilized' blacks and mestiços) although
acknowledging the expansion of the town and its suburbs. On their maps several
sanzalas (quarters supposedly only for 'natives') were mentioned - Cacilhas, S.
Jorge, Canoto, Bom Pastor, Fátima, Abrigada - distinguished from the more distant
or sparse settlements. Cacilhas appeared partly as a bairro (surveyed for its white
and mixed-race population) and partly as a sanzala, indicating the contiguity or
overlapping of such spaces.46
The 'white' and 'mixed-race' population survey included the Baixa, the Alta
and the bairros of CCFB (Pauling), S. João, Benfica, Cacilhas, Calumanda, Estrada
da Aviação, Campo Agrícola, Caululo and Companhia Indígena de Caçadores (a
company of 'native troops' had its barracks there). They registered 3,442 whites and
civilized mestiços, a greater number living in bairros (1,273) than in Alta (1,006) or
the downtown Baixa (1,163), which speaks for the unplanned nature of urban
settlement. Despite its flaws, the survey provided an important descriptive report
(memória descritiva) reflecting both the city's condition 34 years after its foundation
and prevailing colonial urban theories.47
1945, 8. Aguiar's essay L’Habitation dans les pays tropicaux (Lisbon, 1952), published
when he was the Vice-director of the Urbanization Office, summarized his ideas on tropical
cities and 'native' housing.
Memória descritiva, 44-6. For the shifting meanings of bairro and sanzala, see Chapter 5.
Much later, Cacilhas got the sole sociological study on urban Huambo: António F. Caldeira,
'O Bairro de Cacilhas de Nova Lisboa, Angola: uma abordagem etno-sociológica', Lisbon,
ISCSPU, Degree Dissertation, 1974, unpublished.
Memória descritiva, 44-6. In December 1946, Aguiar signed the plan, which was
approved one year later. It followed 'the modern principles of urbanism', dividing
'methodically the zones for diverse activities and diverse population classes [and] …
The new city plan was conceived for 20,000 'civilized' inhabitants (including
15,000 'whites'), a rather optimistic prospect at the time.48 The 'non-civilized'
population, ideally not expected to exceed three for each 'white', would be housed in
sanzalas, where palhotas (thatched huts) would be the norm, although in healthier
conditions than the existing ones.49 The 481 hectares were zoned according to
diverse uses indicated on the map: five 'residential areas' (R), one for 'natives in an
advanced stage of civilization'; four areas for residential and commercial facilities
(M); 'reserved areas' (O) for the City Council and public services, schools, hospital,
seminary, hotels etc.; 'public spaces' (P) including gardens and parks; an 'industrial
zone' (I); a 'railway zone' (F); and land reserved for future developments.
The report discussed the characteristics and location of proper 'native quarters'
(bairros indígenas) where servants and other workers would live in close proximity
to their workplaces. Moreover, they praised the plots usually cultivated near African
settlements as useful to control the wild grass, otherwise the responsibility of the
municipality. Those 'natives of European habits', therefore 'civilized', should be kept
apart both from the 'white' urban wards and the 'native settlements' (aldeamentos
indígenas) in a 35 hectare residential area north-east of the city (R5), designed for a
maximum of 5,000 inhabitants, living in houses made of 'sun-dried blocks, covered
by tiles or fibrocimento' (an asbestos-cement substitute for corrugated iron). They
got also one of the (M) areas, with a 'native market', commerce buildings, cinema
and police station. On the town margins (east, west and near the industrial and
railway zones), three 'great areas for native settlements' were foreseen, the eastern
imposing discipline on buildings according to their uses and location.' Voz, 4 August 1945, 1
and 8.
The last colonial census, in 1970, registered 14,694 whites, representing 23.7 percent of
the total population of 61,885. Direcção Provincial dos Serviços de Estatística, Informações
Estatísticas, 1974.
Memória descritiva, 99-100. The derogatory words palhota or cubata were used
throughout the report, although most of the houses were made of wattle-and-daub (pau-apique) or sun-dried blocks (adobes), building techniques also used in many white settlers
houses to which cubata was not applied.
and western ones for domestic servants, waiters, building workers, etc. These zones
should be 'isolated by dense tree curtains', arguably to allow 'natives' to go on living
according to their 'custom' in cubatas built by themselves, with small vegetable
gardens and a collective 'shelter for meetings'.50
The Native Statute
As seen in Chapter 3, the consolidation of colonial rule in Angola meant the
generalization of policies of labour recruitment and taxation, despite divisions among
Portuguese authorities about the benefits of the system. Taxation pressure was
increasing and with prices falling in the late 1930s, each 'native' taxpayer had to
produce 4 or 5 times more than in the early 1920s or to accept a 'contract' for longer
periods.51 Settlers were even more divided on labour recruitment and population
control: traders needed producers and consumers, administrators depended on 'native
tax' and farmers wanted cheap labourers.
The nineteenth-century evolution from slaves to 'libertos' and to 'serviçais' and
the 1899 Native Labour Code, important as they were, touched only Portugueseruled areas at the time, a small fraction of what afterwards became Angola. In the
twentieth century, the first step to reduce Africans to a subordinate legal status was
taxation, followed by a pass (caderneta) introduced to control the 'native' wealth,
work force and movement, and, finally, an all-encompassing 'Native Statute'
(Estatuto dos Indígenas) that kept 'natives' away from citizenship and from climbing
up the social ladder. Eventually the working pass became an overall identification for
Memória descritiva, 67, 82-3 and 103-A to 110. The massive plantation of eucalypti,
cedars and cypresses was first decided as a protection against strong winds in the 1920s, but
soon it looked like a social and racial frontier, here made explicit. A Província de Angola,
15 August 1938.
In 1939 each 'native tax' roughly equaled 1,365 kg of maize. See Matos, Memórias, II,
237. See Heywood, Contested Power, 72-74 on the burden of taxation and its contribution
to the colonial state budget.
'natives' (Caderneta Indígena), while 'civilized' people got a Portuguese citizen's
document (Bilhete de Identidade from the 1940s on) (see figures 7 to 11).
The Caderneta was until 1961 the evidence of an inferior social and legal
status, as well as a means of control. It is not clear when it first appeared but it was
announced in the 1910s by Angola's first Secretary for Native Affairs, Ferreira
Diniz,52 and it was certainly in practice in the beginning of the 1920s when local
legislation was introduced to better regulate the flux and the conditions of 'native'
workers. An official circular stated that the caderneta, issued at the worker's
Circunscrição (administrative area) was aimed at suppressing 'laziness' and
controlling 'working obligations'.53
Pass laws preceded the 1926 Native Statute but their enforcement was
irregular, as suggested by new by-laws on the subject in subsequent years. In the
1940s, the caderneta was mandatory for 'every native over 16 registered for tax
purposes; females working as domestic servants; natives between 14 and 18 years
old working voluntarily for any employer; and all natives working for the State or
related services'. Law punished the transportation of any 'native' without his pass and
the mandatory travel permit (guia de trânsito).54 Women needed the pass only for
some jobs, but they were even more vulnerable than men and underpaid (or not paid
at all) when used as city cleaners or road builders, and youngsters under 16 were
P.O. 491, 10 May 1913, based on Decree 27 May 1911 on 'native labour', imposed 'work
certificates' (certificados de trabalho) on employers, one for each worker. José O. F. Diniz,
Negócios Indígenas: Relatório do Ano de 1913 (Luanda, 1914), 129-54 and 184-5. For its
application in Huambo: Registo de editais 1912-1915, ANA, Códice 9,950. See also José O.
F. Diniz, Populações indígenas de Angola (Coimbra, 1918), 713-7.
Secretário de Colonização e Negócios Indígenas, Circular 7/116, 10 February 1922,
complementing Circular 17/826, 29 December 1921, ANA, Caixa 466. Also P.O. 16
January 1925.
Huambo, Edict 30 April 1942, in Voz, 9 May 1942, 6. P.O. 3,937, 25 February 1942
imposed the Caderneta model and gave employers sixty days for delivering passes to all
also recruited with the involvement of colonial authorities, although the pass laws
excluded them.55
The 1926 'Political, Civil and Criminal Statute for the Natives of Angola and
Mozambique' summarized practices and sparse colonial legislation, creating a
special legal status for 'natives' distinct from 'Portuguese citizens' and impacting on all
related legislation.56 It broke definitely with more liberal tendencies and matched
segregation reinforcement in other African colonies. It was a convenient barrier
against black social mobility in white settler colonies, protecting settlers' rights to
lands and jobs from the overwhelming black majority, especially the small but
growing group of Christian mission trained people.57 Politicians in Europe were
discussing ways of improving the colonies' productivity, implying better living
standards for the colonized but without putting white supremacy at risk. Britain was
developing 'indirect rule', although not everywhere, and France moved from its
doctrine of assimilation to association, with distinctive legislation for the metropole
and its colonies and making much more difficult the access to French citizenship to
its colonial subjects, until 1946.58 Portugal followed this trend and the Native Statute
consolidated the move against the 'assimilation' doctrine and the idea of all parcels
Administrador de Concelho to Chefes de Posto de Vila Nova, Sambo, Quipeio e Benfica,
Circular 11 December 1946, urging them to 'intensify propaganda near native authorities' to
get thirteen to sixteen-year-old boys for railway 'moderate works', paid 1.60 angolares plus
food daily, supervised by an adult paid three angolares. ANA, Caixa 496.
Estatuto político, civil e criminal dos indígenas de Angola e Moçambique, Decree 12,533,
23 October 1926. Further modifications: Decree 13,698, 30 November 1927; Decree 16,473,
6 February 1929, further regulated by P.O. 3,126, 28 October 1939; Decree 39,666, 30 May
This explains why Angola and Mozambique 'needed' the native-civilized legal divide
(later extended to Guiné for coherence) and Cabo Verde and São Tomé did not.
Paradoxically, the legal 'natives' in São Tomé were Angolan and Mozambican labourers.
See Alice Conklin, A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in France and
West Africa, 1895-1930 (Stanford 1997), especially 174-211; Catherine CoqueryVidrovitch, 'Nationalité et citoyenneté en Afrique Occidentale française: originaires et
citoyens dans le Sénégal colonial', JAH, 42 (2001), 285-305; Emmanuelle Saada, Les
enfants de la colonie. Les métis de l’empire français entre sujétion et citoyenneté (Paris
2007); Gregory Mann, 'What was the indigénat? The "empire of law" in French West
Africa', JAH, 50 (2009), 331-353. For a contemporary and comparative approach, see Lucy
Mair, Native Policies in Africa, p. 18 and all Chapter IV 'French Policy'.
of the empire sharing broadly the same rights, present in the wake of the abolition of
slavery and in some Republican discourses.59 Now, the dominant idea was no longer
integration into the Portuguese nation, but to keep the great majority clearly apart
from a minority of 'citizens' represented by all the whites and those blacks and
mixed-race who fulfilled the conditions to become 'civilized'.
The Statute defined 'natives' as 'those individuals of black race or their
descendants who, by their education and custom, do not distinguish themselves from
the norm of that race' (article 3), leaving to each colonial government the definition
of more specific conditions. 'Protection' was accorded to the 'natives' but they were
not Portuguese and would be governed under a different set of laws until, after an
expected very gradual evolution, being integrated 'in the life of the colony, in a way
to become an essential element of its administration' (article 1). But no mention was
made of their integration into the Portuguese nation.60 They had no 'political rights
related to European-type institutions' (article 9) and there were distinct organization
and courts (Tribunal Privativo dos Indígenas) for the administration of justice
(article 12).
Codification of customary law was considered essential to governance (article
2) and those habits and customs of 'native' social life not offending '[Portuguese]
sovereignty rights' and 'humanitarian principles' could be accepted. Ethnographic
questionnaires had been sent to the Administrative staff as earlier as 1912 without
much success, but in 1918 Ferreira Diniz had published his voluminous book on
Angolan 'peoples'.61 Commenting on the questionnaires, Administrator Laboreiro
considered most administrative personnel unable to do a survey or even understand
For that and the former period, see Cristina Nogueira da Silva, Constitucionalismo e
Império: a Cidadania no Ultramar Português (Lisbon, 2009).
This was an important difference with the 1954 Statute which called them 'Portuguese
natives'. See Chapter 5.
Diniz, Populações. The questionnaire (P.O. 315, 23 February 1912) was distributed but its
utility contested.
the questionnaire questions, arguing that learning local languages and engaging in
conversation would be more fruitful. As for assimilation, it was 'completely
condemned in the view of modern colonizers [and] … always a disaster when
applied to inferior races'.62
Customary law never got a proper code in Angola, but article 4 of the Statute
allowed 'declarations of the local native chief and two other respected natives chosen
by the administrative authority' to be applied to matters of 'family, property and
inheritance rights'. As the state maintained only those chiefs 'recognized as such by
the administrative authorities' (article 8), in the end everything depended on the
discretion of local Portuguese authorities, only limited by their interest in keeping
administration going smoothly. This in turn could give some leverage to local
people able to manipulate 'custom' to their own benefit.63
In the meantime, attitudes towards African chiefs were changing and
influential authors called for stopping 'the social disintegration brought to the native
society [sociedade gentílica] by a policy today without opportunity or justification,
in Angola as in almost all African colonies'. Progress implied to try 'as far as
possible to rebuild or organize, based on traditional custom, the authority of native
chiefs who will be the intermediaries … between the tutelary administration and the
populations.'64 The powerful Benguela Trade Association (Associação Comercial de
Benguela), representing well-off settlers and traders, also advocate a 'native policy'
based on 'a reorganization of the native authorities, as the natural auxiliaries of the
civil and military authorities.'65 It was a shift from the former prevalent attitude but
already in 1915 Ferreira Diniz deplored the lack of information about African chiefs
Laboreiro, Circunscrição, 12-17.
In the 1940s custom codification 'had still not deserved proper attention': José C. Ribeiro,
Regulamento do Foro Privativo dos Indígenas de Angola: Crítica e Formulário (Luanda,
1944), 6.
Augusto Casimiro, 'Política administrativa de Angola', BAGC, 47 (1929), 40.
Jornal de Benguela, 22 January 1926, 5.
and the existing contempt for them, quoting the governor of French Equatorial Africa,
Merlin, on the impossibility of 'direct administration' without any 'native intermediary',
the need of keeping chiefs as 'subordinate collaborators and not potentates under
trusteeship' and the ways of creating such authorities where needed.66
However, prestige was easier destroyed than rebuilt: 'Native policy went on
being exerted through the villages' sobas, regedores and secúlos with the purpose of
enhancing the crumbled prestige of native authorities'.67 Portuguese authorities
interfered whenever the olosekulu's choice of a new soma was considered
inconvenient and the installation ceremony took place at the main administrative
centre in the presence of subordinate olosoma and olosekulu, who formally
confirmed their choice of a new chief. The registration was read aloud and a written
document was given to the new chief. Obviously, the more important the chief the
more ritualized the ceremony, but it was clear for everyone where the real power
was. Between 1924 and 1933, four such ceremonies occurred in Huambo, the most
important being in October 1933 when Chaturica became soba of Kandumbu
'because the former soba was substituted' (no mention why) and the olosekulu had
chosen him. Gulaua, another ombala in the region, got a new chief in August 1927,
Sachipenha, but his whereabouts were 'unknown' by December 1931 when Luis
Chico was 'chosen' as a replacement soba.68 Although sparse information exists for
subsequent years, the administration apparently became less interested in registering
details about 'native authorities'.69
José O. F. Diniz, Negócios Indígenas: Relatório do ano de 1915 (Lisbon, 1918), 8-10.
'Nova Lisboa. Administração do Concelho. Relatório de 1937' [hereafter Administration
Report 1937], ANA, Códice 3,563, 6. Sobas and secúlos were Portuguese versions of soma
and sekulu; the Portuguese word regedor was normally used for chiefs appointed by Portuguese
authorities in the absence of, or with disregard for, traditional rulers.
The important chieftainship of Kandumbu, about 30 kilometers east of Huambo, was the
last redoubt of armed resistance in 1902. Gulaua chiefs were also related to Kandunbu. See
Chapter 3.
'Registo de termos relativos a nomeação de Sobas e distribuições de terras 1924-33',
ANA, Códice 3,479. 'Registo biográfico das autoridades gentílicas', ANA, Códice 7,375,
In the colonial hierarchy established by the 1933 Overseas Administrative
Reform, 'native authorities' (autoridades gentílicas), cipaios and interpreters were
remunerated as 'auxiliaries of the civil administration in the colonies' (article 76),
namely for military conscription and 'public works'. All 'natives' in urban areas were
to be reunited in regedorias under a regedor, although traditional terminology was
allowed, such as sobado in Huambo. Those regedorias could be subdivided in grupo
de povoações ('native settlement group') with usually no less than 25 settlements,
whose chief was found by local succession rules or chosen by the regedor and the
Administrator (articles 109 to 111) and ruled himself over the 'native settlement’s
chiefs' (chefes de povoação indígena) (articles 112 to 119).70
Initially, the administrative pattern for 'natives' coming to live near the town
followed the guidelines for rural populations, so taxation and labour control could
continue as usual. Soon, however, population growth and mixture made it difficult
or impossible for the old olosekulu to retain control and to give accurate information
about the movement of people as they were supposed to do. The 1933 reform was
used to restructure 'traditional' hierarchies in order to maintain control over the
expanding 'native' population. Obviously, such opportunity was not missed by
candidates of several origins and one curious case was a certain Gonçalves, born at
Catumbela but having lived for thirty years on the periphery of Huambo (bairro
Bomba), who in 1946 sought official confirmation as 'the overall soba in the city
suburbs' (soba geral nos subúrbios de Nova Lisboa).71
7v-8. It was noted that Cikualula 'was soba at Gulaua where he was very much respected.
Little influence on the rest of his peoples although many villages belong to him'. On page
45v, a note (2 September 1945) questioned how was it possible that since 1937 nothing was
registered in the book. A few more entries appeared after that.
Ministério das Colónias, Reforma Administrativa Aprovada pelo Decreto-Lei nº 23.229,
de 15 de Novembro de 1933 (Lisbon, 1933). For a contemporary sketch of the Portuguese
colonial administration, see Mair, Native Policies, 250-60.
José Lino Gonçalves to Secretário de Administração do Concelho, 15 July 1946, ANA,
Caixa 496, 'Cadastro chefes indígenas 1946'. His name and personal data suggest he was a
'civilized' black trader. There is no indication that he got the position or even an answer.
In fact, the city was within the old Wambu polity but most inhabitants were
not former Wambu subjects or their descendents. Ovimbundu from other and more
populated kingdoms, like Mbalundu and Sambu, or from elsewhere, were the
majority but not the only group present. Trade activities, the building of the railway,
an the search for available land were all factors attracting different people to the
area.72 The olosekulu and olosoma were also coming from more or less far away
and could rule over a mixed population, and the Administration installed 'native
authorities' where it suited their policy.73
The Wambu kingdom had vanished, although incumbents of the chiefly title
still existed or, more likely, there were several candidates and disputable
legitimacies.74 As noted in Chapter 3, lists collected from oral sources by different
authors do not coincide with archival sources which suggest that Cilombo-coNgoma, 'elected' after the 1902 defeat, was still there in the 1930s. The multiplication
of sobados with no reference to a great chief (soma inene) confirmed the obscurity
of the once powerful Wambu soma among Huambo inhabitants but it was also a sign
of how demography had changed since the foundation of the city. Of the twelve
sobados listed in 1946 falling under Huambo Posto Sede, most if not all
corresponded to relatively recent population concentrations mentioned elsewhere as
'the surrounding settlements' (povoações): Etunda, Cahululo, Capilongo, Cambiote,
There are no reliable numbers. In Portuguese statistics, language was supposed to
represent ethnic affiliation, which was not always the case, as noted in Chapter 2. For
Huambo Concelho in 1940 (then including Vila Nova, Sambo and Quipeio), official
numbers were: 153,933 Mbundo [Umbundu], 3,301 Ngangela, 289 Lunyaneka, 183
Kimbundu, 100 Lunda-Kioko [Cokwe and Lunda], 68 Xi-Kuanyama, 43 Tyherero, 9
Kikongo, 4 Lunkhumbi and 463 'undetermined'. Censo Geral 1940, Vol. 9, 'População
preta, não civilizada, segundo os grupos étnicos', 22-9.
In 1937, autoridades gentílicas in the Huambo Posto Sede were Sucuma, Chinguar, Sauír,
Luiz, Pintari and Calandula, probably the regedores indígenas referred elsewhere in the
document. Administration Report 1937, 4 and 31. Each Circunscrição ou Concelho was
divided into administrative Postos and the seat was the Posto Sede. The Huambo Posto Sede
(1,282 square kms) included the city and its surrounding villages and farms. The Concelho
de Huambo included also the Postos Benfica, Vila Nova, Quipeio and Sambo.
Childs, who lived in Huambo between 1959 and 1963, commented on the relative lack of
interest in 'traditional matters' on the part of local Africans. Childs, 'Kingdom of Wambu',
Cavongue, Calomanda, Cacreua, Cacilhas, Bomba, Canhe, Lomato and Macolocolo.
While Cacilhas and Bomba are Portuguese names, the others are local and none
match the sobados listed in the 1910s as belonging to Wambu and whose olombala
were far from the new town. The situation was different among the sobados
depending on the nearest Posto, Benfica, in a more rural area: Lufefena, Jongolo,
Calandula, Sanjepere, Gulaua, Coxito and Cavinda, where at least Gulaua and
Jongolo were mentioned in earlier sources.75
Land was not a problem at the beginning, since the city was at the centre of a
vast plain, watered by rivers and streams. Sparsely populated and partly deserted
after the 1902 war, it allowed plenty of space for newcomers.76 But land soon
became a bone of contention, not only for agriculture but also for an important
resource, wood, prompting occupation by white settlers who did not cultivate it. The
construction sector needed timber, African and European households alike
consumed firewood and charcoal, and the railway consumed great quantities of all
three. Well aware of the peasants' economic importance, the administration often
came to the defence of their land rights and accused settlers of greed.77
Colonial authorities were less sympathetic, however, to the chiefs' failure to
provide the requested number of workers and to control undocumented men, tax
evaders, population movements and alcohol production. In 1946 Soba Petróleo of
Jongolo (in Posto Benfica) had to pay the taxes of a certain Nhime plus a 110
angolares fee because, although he controlled 274 taxpayers, he failed to deliver ten
See Chapter 3. The Huambo Posto Sede was split in the 1930s. It kept control over the
area within a range of 9 kilometres from the town centre, while Posto Benfica administrated
the rest of it. For the 1946 list, see Inventário da riqueza indígena (inventory of native
wealth), 1946-1951, ANA, Caixa 447 [hereafter Inventário 1946-1951].
A significant difference between Huambo and Lobito, the other important railway town,
where 'native' settlements were located either on hillocks or on unhealthy marshes.
Administrador do Concelho to Intendente do Distrito, 7 April 1945 and several related
documents, ANA, Caixa 496. Land reserves for 'natives' near the town were advocated to
prevent spoliation and to protect the city supplies in food and labour. For earlier years,
ANA, Caixa 466, '1921, Terrenos'.
men and brought someone not counted in the census.78 But usually it was in the
interest of both parties to come to a negotiated solution at considerable cost to the
common people, as when olosekulu and olosoma cooperated with round-ups led by
cipaios against undocumented or 'vagrant' men, which was, in fact, a way of
acquiring labourers.79
The Native Statute guaranteed freedom of work (article 5) approving coercive
labour only when 'absolutely indispensable in urgent services of public interest' and
always to be paid. Natives' Defense Commissions (Comissões de Defesa dos
Indígenas) to be created in each District had to approve contracts (article 6) and
were supposed to take note of complaints against the authorities, to listen to native
chiefs submitting their peoples' needs, to carry out enquiries into the aforementioned
subjects when necessary, and to submit proposals to the Governor General on any
relevant matters (articles 19 and 20). As usual, actual practice depended greatly on
the people on the ground and in its first years the Statute's definition of 'native' was
differently interpreted. Successive legislation made it more precise and restrictive
but nonetheless the 1940 census revealed that in Angola 'whites' were less than half
of the small 'civilized' group.80 That reality and increasing Portuguese immigration
led to an increasingly rigorous enforcement of the Native Statute and the growing
difficulties for a black person to escape the 'native' classification and for any 'native'
to get jobs reserved for the 'civilized'.
Administrador do Concelho, 18 May 1946, ANA, Caixa 496. Jongolo was the 'rebel'
sobado of the 1930s; see Chapter 3.
'Intendência do Distrito e Administração do Concelho. Diário do Serviço 1940-1942'
(District Administration diary), 8, 10 and 15 January, 31 May and 18 June, ANA, Códice
7,444. Also Voz, 14 April 1945, 9.
Alberto de Lemos, introducing the Census and explaining its restrictive criteria for
definition of mestiço and 'civilized', admitted that 'non-civilized' was an unfair classification
to thousands of people who 'had left the aboriginal institutions' on their way to 'civilization',
such as those educated in the Christian missions. About the 'pitiful reality' of thousands of
'non-civilized' mestiços resulting from 'accidental unions', he recommended, invoking
charity and the whites' self-respect, to put them in dedicated institutions, as in the Belgian
Congo and South Africa. Censo Geral 1940, I, 70-1.
Working in town, out of town and beyond
The majority of people living near Huambo were peasant farmers, but more and
more men (and some women) were occupied in skilled or unskilled jobs in the city,
on the railroad and the roads nearby, or leaving under ‘contract’ to more distant
areas. A smaller group migrated into neighbouring colonies or South Africa,
escaping from labour recruitment, taxation and abuse at home.81 Angola's economy
was dominated by agriculture and fishing until the 1950s, except for diamond mining
in the north-east of the colony. The High Commissioner period created expectations
of administrative autonomy and economic growth, but by the late 1920s both were
proving elusive. The introduction of the angolar currency, resulting in a rise of
nearly 20 per cent in the cost of living, did not help the economy.82 Agriculture was
by far the bigger sector and African peasant production was well ahead of that by
European settlers and companies, despite some big farms concentrated mainly on
coffee, sugar cane, cotton and fibres.83 Peasant production sold to Portuguese traders
was responsible 'for the great increment in cereal and beans exports of recent years,
[and] the progressive augment of the native tax that for the year 1927-1928 brought
54.472.000 escudos, that is almost the triple of 1923-1924'.84
Southern-central Angola had a leading role in maize production, exports of
which reached a peak of 71,249 tonnes in 1930, surpassing coffee and being second
See Heywood, Contested Power, 78. There were restrictions to foreign recruitment and
repression of voluntary emigration, with few exceptions.
Introduced in August 1928, eighty angolares equaled one hundred Angola escudos.
British consuls' reports provide important figures and interesting insights. G. H. Bullock,
Economic Conditions in Angola (Portuguese West Africa): Report (London, 1932),
including important information for 1928. R. T. Smallbones, Economic Conditions in
Angola (Portuguese West Africa): Report (London, 1929). Hereafter Bullock Report and
Smallbones Report.
Diploma Legislativo 439, 20 February 1933, recognized the importance of 'native'
production and regulated 'native' individual property of small plots. José B. Alves,
'Estabelecimento das condições em que o indígena agricultor se pode tornar proprietário …',
Delegação à 1ª Conferência Económica do Império Colonial Português – III Comissão:
Utensilhagem Colonial (Lisbon, 1936).
Smallbones, Report, 12-13. In 1928, maize went to Germany (27,825 tonnes), Portugal
(23,173 tonnes) and in smaller quantities to Belgium and São Tomé. Bullock, Report, 49.
only to diamonds. In 1931, coffee partially recovered and again became second in
value as maize production dropped. Wax and dried fish were among the ten most
valuable products and both had an impact in central Angola, whose people traded
wax from eastern zones and contributed labour to the fishing industry in Benguela
and Moçâmedes. Improvement in transportation facilitated export capacity from the
central plateau, the railway and connecting roads playing a decisive role in carrying
maize and other products to the coast.85 But despite its obvious importance, CCFB's
financial problems after the First World War did not help to boost confidence and
Benguela merchants felt that their commercial interests were overlooked.86 As the
core zones for that agriculture surplus were not all along the roads or the railway,
peasants or recruited porters still had to carry production to the commercial houses
scattered on the plateau or by the railroad.
Huambo went on expanding as a commercial city whose trade ranged from big
importers to small shops that specialized in barter trade. Among the 180 traders
registered in 1937, however, none was 'native', although 108 of the 114 quitandeiros
(pedlars or street vendors) were.87 In 1942, 71 merchant houses, 56 of which were in
the city and nine others at a short distance, were listed: of the latter, four were at
Pauling (CFB), two at Benfica, Macolocolo and Kwando, one at Cemitery, Kussava,
Gualaua, Calumanda and Bomba.88 Data on agriculture in the 1930s and the 1940s
A.M. Machado, 'O Caminho de Ferro de Benguela e o desenvolvimento da Província de
Angola', BAGC, 47 (1929), 242-256. He acknowledged the railway impact on maize
exports: 3,800 tonnes from the 4,000 total were exported through Benguela and Lobito in
1917. In 1922, they were 36,000 out of 37,000 tonnes and in 1927, 64,000 out of 67,000
tonnes. See also A.C. Valdez dos Santos, Perspectivas Económicas de Angola, (Lisbon
1949), 122-30.
Jornal de Benguela, 3 March 1926, 2. Apparently, after a twenty-fold devaluation of the
escudo in 1926, the train costs went up forty times.
Administration Report 1937, 41. Unsurprisingly, Posto Sede had the greatest
concentration of European skilled workers, 65 percent of all traders, 58 of the total 65 civil
servants and 120 of the 197 'employees' (trade, administration and bureaucratic services).
But only 30 percent of the Concelho European farmers were there.
Cadastro Militar. Concelho do Huambo. Posto Sede, AHM, Angola, Caixa 74, Document
15, 10-11. Hereafter AHM Cadastro 1942.
in Huambo Posto Sede reveal the weight of peasant production in the overall
economy and the difficulty of finding a clear urban-rural divide. The bulk of
production, except for the fruit trees, clearly belonged to the 'native self-employed
small producers'. In all of Huambo Concelho, peasant maize production in the 1930s
was forty or fifty times more than 'European' production, being inferior only in some
exotic experiments like rice and coffee. In 1937 the European sector in the Posto
Sede included twelve farms (a total of 249 hectares) and only eighteen small
European producers, while at a rough estimate, 2,887 African peasants cultivated
5,800 hectares. In 1942 they produced 3,500 tonnes of maize, about fifty times the
70 tonnes from European farms, where 'natives' were also the labour force. Even if
numbers are only approximate, there was also a substantial production of beans,
wheat, chickpeas, potatoes, peas, peanuts, onions and manioc, some of which fed the
local European and African population and some of which was exported. The divide
in cattle raising was not so extreme (Africans owned only three times more than
Europeans) but for pigs and goats a much larger part of the available stock again
belonged to 'natives'. 89
In the following years, peasant cash-crop agriculture went on expanding in
Posto Sede, with maize, sweet potato and assorted beans dominating, but also
including manioc, potato, onions, peas, castor seed and tobacco.90 Villages around
the town multiplied, with some family members working in town, others working in
the fields (lavras) and in small back gardens (ocumbo), all supplemented with
livestock. In years to come, serious problems would affect peasant agriculture, due
to land exhaustion, greater Portuguese immigration, oscillation of prices and the
intensity of labour recruitment for other areas, but it was not yet the case in those
first decades. The city's development was closely linked to its rural environment and
Administration Report 1937, 33-35, 41. AHM Cadastro 1942, 9.
Smaller productions for household consumption were not listed. Inventário 1946-1951.
colonial authorities recognized its dependence on 'native' supplies of vegetables,
fruit and milk.91 Women went on being the main agriculture producers and only
slowly began to work in town, but the involvement of men in agriculture, going
beyond their 'traditional' role, undoubtedly accounted for its development.92
In Huambo and neighbouring regions, after the violence of the conquest,
colonial authorities and merchants alike became more interested in peasant
production and in securing labour for local activities than in exporting 'contract'
labourers. Taxation and corvées, especially for road construction, were the main
burden of villagers in the area, although a number of men were sent to distant
employers and the administration could at any time recruit labourers by force by
invoking the 'public interest'.93 The town surroundings could provide an escape
route, despite round-ups (rusgas) to detect jobless or undocumented persons, and
proof of local employment meant avoiding being 'contracted' by a more distant
employer. That no doubt contributed to rapid population growth on the outskirts of
Indentured labour in Angola, both the 'contract' system and the preceding
serviçais' recruitment, has been widely denounced and discussed.95 The case of
Administrador do Concelho to Intendente do Distrito, 7 April 1945, ANA, Caixa 496,
'Litígios', 3.
Childs, Pössinger, Heywood and Péclard, have discussed Ovimbundu men's transition
from caravan trade to agriculture. Official enquiries in the 1960s documented that change:
Missão de Inquéritos Agrícolas de Angola, Recenseamento.
See Pinto, Angola, 301-7. For strong criticism of the system, see Henrique Galvão,
Angola (Para uma Nova Política) (Lisbon, 1937), and his famous 'Exposição do deputado
Henrique Galvão à Comissão de Colónias da Assembleia Nacional em Janeiro de 1947',
Lisbon, Arquivo da Assembleia da República. The report was partially published by the
clandestine Portuguese Communist Party. See also Edward A. Ross, Report on Employment
of Native Labour in Portuguese Africa (New York, 1925), 6-61, especially 15, 37, 58,
denouncing road building as a 'crushing burden on natives', unpaid and conscripted, mostly
women and often children, using 'only the most primitive implements'. Ross visited Angola
and Mozambique in 1924 and the Ross Report was submitted to the Temporary Slavery
Commission of the League of Nations in Geneva.
See Administration Report 1937, 36.
Almost every study on Angola's twentieth-century history mentions the subject. For
recent work, see Jeremy R. Ball, '"The colossal lie": the Sociedade Agrícola do Cassequel
and Portuguese colonial labor policy in Angola, 1899-1977', Ph.D. dissertation, University
forced labour migration to São Tomé got far more publicity, but in fact most
contract workers were used inside Angola. On the central plateau as elsewhere, few
people were volunteering for the fisheries, plantations or diamond mines, far away
from their homes and subject to discretionary contract periods, despite occasional
robust action of the Curador dos indígenas (Natives' Guardian) against employers.96
But the connivance of Portuguese officials and the more or less reluctant
collaboration of African chiefs made it rather common for a man to be engaged in
some kind of forced labour at some point in his life. However, we can not use forced
labour as a blanket for labour relations in Angola over time and space. State agents
could enforce the law about wages and freedom of choice, workers could be more or
less able to complain and get better conditions or to leave, and job opportunities
could lure young men out of their elders' control in societies used to men's
temporary absence, with long-distance trade and military expeditions embedded in
their history.
Through those first decades a few big companies recruited much of the
contract workforce: Companhia Agrícola e Pecuária de Angola (agriculture and
cattle ranching), Sociedade Agrícola do Cassequel (sugar and alcohol), Companhia
Agrícola de Angola (coffee, palm trees and cotton), Companhia do Sul de Angola
(fish processing) and Companhia de Moçâmedes (with thousands of cattle acquired
from the Boers; it later merged with the Companhia do Sul de Angola).97 A lot of
of California, Los Angeles, 2003; Douglas Wheeler, 'The forced labour 'system' in Angola,
1903-1947: reassessing origins and persistence in the context of colonial consolidation,
economic growth and reform failures', CEAUP (ed.), Trabalho Forçado Africano.
Experiências Coloniais Comparadas (Porto, 2006), 367-93; Todd Cleveland, 'Working
while walking: Forced laborers' treks to Angola's colonial-era diamond mines', CEAUP
(ed.), Trabalho Forçado Africano. O Caminho de Ida (Ribeirão, 2009), 159-74.
A well documented case ocurred against merchant-farmer Valentim Leiro (Fazenda
Boaventura, near Novo Redondo) in 1915. For this and similar conflicts, AHM, Caixa 161,
document 18. Also Diniz, Relatório 1915, 26-30.
In 1928, reacting to the increment of Portuguese settlement in southern Angola, almost all
of the 350 or so Boer families left for Namibia and South Africa. See João Pereira Neto,
Angola: Meio Século de Integração (Lisbon 1964), 153, 165.
other minor fisheries and farmers also recruited on the plateau, but throughout this
period greater labour demand in Huambo came from the state and the CCFB.98 A
1937 official report indicated that in Huambo Posto Sede, 4,535 men were
'apparently valid' for work (424 under sixteen years old) but a maximum estimate of
816 should be available for 'contract' because 2,675 already worked on their own
account, 457 were already employed outside the Concelho and 1,219 inside it, where
'European agriculture always got labourers to meet its needs and the salaries
respected the Native Labour Code'. Of the 1,598 contract workers that year, 309
went to the fisheries in Benguela and a great majority went to agriculture in northern
A wide range of activities and jobs could be found in town despite the very
small scale of the industries and workshops, with the exception of the CCFB. In
1942 they included one flour mill plus seven rudimentary water mills on the
outskirts, two pork sausage factories, one tanning plant (all these selling their
products to other parts of the colony), one biscuit and macaroni factory, one candy
factory, two soft drinks factories, two lime works, five brickworks, eight firewood
retail sellers, three timber sellers, two electric repair shops, one radio repair shop,
several car repair workshops, five carpenter’s shops, one cabinet maker's shop, one
printing plant, three blacksmith’s workshops and one tinsmith’s workshop. There
were also four barber’s shops, six butcher’s shops, seven shoe shops, five bakeries,
six tailor’s workshops, two hatter’s workshops, four hotels and five guest houses,
one restaurant, five bookshops and stationers, and one photo studio. African workers
Agência da Curadoria do Huambo - Pedidos de trabalhadores indígenas (mais de vinte)
1943-1947 (requests of more than twenty workers each), ANA, Códice 7,020. See Nuno
Simões, 'Algumas notas sobre a economia de Angola', BAGC, 47 (1929), 18-24. Simões was
the Secretary of the Supreme Administrative Court, a former MP and Minister of Trade, and
a journalist.
Main places were Mucozo (497), Bom Jesus (498), Libolo (138) and Lucala (156).
'Workforce availability', Administration Report 1937, 6.
were employed in all these activities, many of them also working for themselves
after hours and during the week-ends.100
Reports of 'native wealth' based on annual registries for tax collection
purposes, were supposed to list all self-employed tradesmen (artifices) and master
tradesmen (oficiais) as well as private or state employees. However, classification of
'industrial labour' varied, many occupations were omitted and most women's
activities ignored.101 Even potters (who could be men or women) were not always
registered although their occupation was usually listed.102 These 'inventories' are
nonetheless precious for revealing the diversity of occupations in the 1940s:
bricklayers, carpenters and joiners were counted by the hundreds, the latter largely
surpassing the bricklayers by 1950; masons, painters, locksmiths (metalworkers?),
vendors of foodstuffs, shoemakers and cobblers, tailors, blacksmiths, tinkers (not
necessarily ambulant), sawyers and woodcutters, potters, basket makers and mat
makers. The building sector was dominant, accompanying the growth of the city and
merchant activities, the importance of tailors and shoemakers/cobblers indicated the
use of European-type clothes and the number of tinkers indicated changes in
household equipment, as they reused tin, aluminium and other metal 'waste' to repair
and make pots and pans, mugs, funnels, buckets and basins. Commercial activity
was represented, in the 1947 inventory, by almost one hundred quitandeiros (pedlars
or street vendors) and 51 permutadores (barter traders). In 1950 there were also
AHM Cadastro 1942, 11-12.
Cf. Frederick Cooper, Decolonization and African Society: The Labor Question in
French and British Africa (Cambridge, 1996), 266, where is argued that, despite discussions
on the role of women in the 1940s and after, 'the complexity of what actual women did in
cities, in workplaces, and in markets was not something officials were eager to investigate'.
Inventário 1946-1951, Posto Sede. In those days, domestic servants and street vendors of
vegetables, charcoal, eggs, etc., were usually male (quitandeiros), except for washwomen.
Voz, 10 July 1943, 1. At least from the late 1930s workers having a closer contact with the
'whites' domestic life and food - at home or in bakeries, schools and hotels - were registered
in separate books at the Natives' Guardian office. ANA, Códices 7,438 and 7,773.
more than 2,000 serventes (usually unskilled workers for heavy tasks in the building
and transportation sectors). 103
It is interesting to compare these figures with those for the 'civilized
population’ in the mid-1940s: 359 persons in commercial occupations (wholesalers,
retailers, shopkeepers, bookkeepers), 302 skilled workers (mainly connected to the
building sector), 222 state officials and military personnel, 143 CCFB employees
and about ninety craftsmen (tailors, cobblers, potters, watch repairers, bookbinders,
etc.).104 There were 13 typesetters but no more than twenty teachers, five doctors
(plus 17 other health personnel) and six policemen (one chief and five guards) - 'law
and order' mostly relying on the cipaios.105
The Portuguese administration used abundant 'native' labour for road building
and maintenance and for the cleaning of streets and empty spaces in the city (cutting
grass, sweeping, picking up garbage). Detainees, convicts and temporary workers
were used, including women and youngsters for little or no money.106 Military and
civil communication with posts and towns not served by the railway or the main
roads depended on another set of temporary employees, porters.107 Closer to
Portuguese civil servants were office orderlies and messengers, cooks, house
servants, gardeners, washing women and obviously the cipaios. Interpreters were
less needed here, since intense commercial and missionary contact meant that many
whites could speak Umbundu and many Africans, both Ovimbundu and others,
could speak Portuguese.
Inventário 1946-1950.
Based on Town Council reports: Memória descritiva, 32-33 and 72.
The 'native' police force of the colonial administration. See Chapter 5.
In 1914, among the 102 registered 'compelled and waged workers' in the state farm
(Granja), 17 were women and to some male names 'boy' or 'prisoner' were added: ANA,
Códice 9,840. More registries of labour for the state in 1914-1915: ANA, Códice 9,841.
In 1942, apart from motorized vehicles (47 automobiles and eighty pickup trucks and
lorries, many of which old and unreliable) road transportation relied on the ninety carts
pulled by oxen or donkeys (up to 1,000 kg), 62 Boer ox-wagons and similar (up to 4,000 kg)
and, still, porters. AHM Cadastro 1942, 12-13.
As already noted, the Benguela Railway was intrinsic to the city's fabric and
its character as a commercial town. But the railway impact began well before the
station's inauguration (September 1912), since building activities created a moving
'frontier zone', first to assess and clear the area for the rail line and then to establish
new temporary railheads. It demanded carriers, skilled and unskilled labour to cut
and carry timber, servants, cooks, etc. Hundreds of Liberians had been brought to
work on the Lobito harbour and thousands of Indian workers were brought for the
initial railway building, but once on the plateau, reached by 1910, the CCFB relied
on Angolan labour and carriers and also on Boers’ oxwagons.108 Around this male
world, women would always be present selling foodstuffs, brewing and selling beer,
socializing and eventually providing sex, prompting missionaries and African chiefs
alike to resent those building sites as undermining their authority.109 But
relationships between local and newly arrived people inevitably developed, despite
occasional avoidance, and many men began raising families in the area, as was
probably the case with early settlements of CCFB 'native' workers north of the
station, where the so-called 'Pauling' neighbourhood developed.110
That moving frontier zone left a string of small towns east and west of
Huambo, following a common pattern. Temporary railheads fostered trade
initiatives and the embryo of a town was left behind after they moved: the railway
yard and the station, several warehouses and a regular grid of streets for traders'
houses, hostels, rest houses and future public buildings, with bars and taverns
D'Almada, Para a história, 50-51. As for the white technicians, there were British,
Germans, Greeks, Americans and others. For a hint of the adventurous ambiance, see
Willem Jaspert, Through Unknown Africa. Experiences from the Jaspert African Expedition
of 1926-1927 (London, 1929), especially 183-7.
See for instance soma Missão Kahosi to interpreter Silva Silipa Mendonça, evoking
ombala displacement in the Ciyaka region (west of Huambo). Men working on the railway
caused disorder involving themselves with local women 'and there the splitting began' and
soma Jahulu and his people founded a new Ekekete ombala, keeping the name of the
original one. Lima, Os Kyaka, III, 307-15.
Voz, 10 November 1945. See also Chapter 3.
scattered about. Two other sets of houses, temporary or definitive, were kept apart:
the building contractors and CCFB staff residences and the military barracks of the
Portuguese cavalry protecting the railway construction.111 Huambo was an exception
to that pattern because the city had its own plan and the CCFB had greater ambitions
there. In its concession area or nearby, the company built houses to permanently
accommodate (in different neighbourhoods) high-ranking staff and skilled white and
'civilized' workers. The more skilled (or lucky) 'native' workers also got houses in a
separate neighbourhood north of the town. The bulk of workers (recruited directly or
through state intervention) and a floating population of job seekers contributed to the
rapid spread of villages nearby.112
During the time the railway construction was halted (1914-1920), about 100
kilometres east of Huambo, at Chinguar, caravans of porters and the Boers'
oxwagons carried goods further east, where white and black 'bush traders' were
competing. But if trains only began to carry the Katanga copper to Lobito in 1931,
they developed the domestic trade from the beginning and became, after the railroad
was completed, the backbone of transportation through central Angola, definitely
giving Huambo its privileged position in the Angolan communications network.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the company's great central workshops played a
decisive role in the training of skilled black workers in Huambo, who were
especially useful after many Portuguese railwaymen chose to be repatriated in 1933.
Amidst discontent with new regulations and salaries resulting from the economic
crisis, white railwaymen stopped some trains for a few days in June 1933, avoiding
calling it a strike, illegal under the new Portuguese Constitution. The local press,
Carlos R. Machado, 'Início e fundação', 30-59. Machado praised the CCFB but in fact it
was often accused of arrogance and of locating its stations without considering others'
(traders) interests. Horácio Domingues, Voz, 03 November 1945.
The 'floating population' was said to be the majority in Posto Sede, justifying striking
differences in taxpayers annual registries, as between 1936 (5,062) and 1937 (4,100).
Administration report 1937, 26.
when finally authorized to write about it, criticized the CCFB leadership and the
Benguela governor who on 12 June had come to Huambo 'protected by two armed
seamen' to arrest six men, as heads of the movement, accusing them of being
'bolshevists'. That spread further agitation along the line and Lisbon finally sacked
the governor and designated the governor of Moxico, António de Almeida, to
succeed him. Almeida calmed things down, workers resumed normal activity, but
many decided to return to their former jobs in Portugal and more than thirty were
repatriated. The newspaper made no mention of black workers, except to deplore the
fact that 'natives' had seen whites in conflict with whites.113
The workshop yard and the construction site came to include a huge range of
activities with the capacity to assemble, inspect and repair locomotives, to
manufacture some parts, and to repair the equipment of Kwando's hydroelectric
plant, Kulimaála's water pumping station and the diesel generators supplying power
along the railroad. There were also a foundry and workshops for carpentry, painting,
electric services, and repairing vehicles and tractors.114 Many 'civilized' and 'native'
blacks were employed and trained by the CCFB, helped by the fact that until the
1950s Portuguese immigration was mostly unskilled.115
Like any city, Huambo cannot be studied as if detached from its hinterland.
Scattered villages in the surrounding countryside looked on the surface similar to
those in other rural areas, but were transformed, if not created, by their relationship
to the town, as shown by patterns of land occupation, the growing number of
inhabitants and the diversity and novelty of their activities and occupations. If
Voz, 8 July, 15 July, 22 July and 29 July 1933.
Benguela Railways, 74-75. Also 'CFB - Oficinas Gerais - Uma breve descrição da sua
organização e das suas actividades' (Huambo, 1957), AHM, Caixa 194, document 7.
See Castelo, Passagens, 174-202 and 226-227.
porters, servants, traders, potters and mat makers had a long tradition, almost all
other trades had to be learned from scratch or old skills converted to new ways of
producing goods and services. This was not, however, an industrial world of mass
production but rather a constellation of small factories, workshops and independent
artisans employing few people, with the exception of the building sector and the
CCFB workshops. Domestic servants as well as others working for the
administration contributed greatly to the numbers of workers in Huambo. Trade was
paramount to the economic life of Huambo. It relied on the African peasant
agricultural surplus, especially maize, as did the taxation that represented a great
part of the administration budget. The development of this new city can only be
understood in the context of its extensive interface with, rather than its clear-cut
separation from, its rural surroundings. The rural hinterland, in turn, was not a
simple reproduction of former rural societies on the plateau.
Archival sources on which this chapter is based are silent on many important
aspects of social life, such as the household and neighbourhood relations and
tensions. Nonetheless, the sources allow us to get a rough picture of the work
universe of the so-called 'natives' and to show how the city's existence was as much
a result as a cause of that developing universe. The levelling of people of diverse
origins, social positions and roles into the colonial category of 'native' perverted
local economic and social dynamics, with far-reaching consequences. The
Ovimbundu were no exception but it can be said that the more differentiated a
society was before the imposition of the Native Statute, the more it was affected and
resented that segregation. Economic change and close proximity to European ways of
life were impacting on material culture, patterns of consumption, gender and age
relations, household composition and the society at large. The next chapter will
discuss another major factor in social change, Christianization.
Christianization in much of sub-Saharan Africa was often a paradoxical process:
while helping to create compliant subjects and a skilled labour force for the new
colonial order, it also opened the way for social mobility and for Europeaninfluenced modernization and organizations that undermined the very foundations of
colonial rule. In central Angola as elsewhere, the rapid expansion of an African
Christianity resulted more from the work of local people than from the direct action
of foreign missionaries. Christianization paralleled economic change (new labour
activities, cash-crop agriculture, access to 'modern' goods and clothes, labour
recruitment, monetary taxes) in altering African societies deeply and irreversibly.
From the late nineteenth century, missionaries of all sorts saw central Angola
and especially the Ovimbundu as very receptive to social and cultural changes,
promising a great Christian future and making the region a Protestant-Catholic
spiritual battlefield.1 The race against Protestantism stimulated Catholic missionary
expansion and was an argument used whenever asking for more support from Rome
and Lisbon. On the Protestant side, militancy against 'the Romans', their influence
and their legal privileges was also part of the missionary effort to implant the 'true'
church of Christ. In practice, much depended upon the missionaries' personalities;
the Portuguese authorities, moreover, did not always favour Catholics, due either to
personal reasons or to a genuine admiration of Protestant social work.
The Catholic population always outnumbered the Protestant in the region and
was the overwhelming
majority in
around the city of Huambo.
Congregationalists, the majority among Protestants, kept their missions away from
See G. M. Childs, 'The Church in Angola: A few impressions', International Review of
Missions, 47 (1958), 186; A Diocese de Nova Lisboa, (Lisbon, 1946), 8. Also interview with
Father Pereira da Silva in Portugal em África, IV (1947), 242-46.
urban centres and attempted to keep their faithful out of them too. A small but active
group of Seventh Day Adventists arrived in the 1920s and concentrated their action
at Bongo, about ninety kilometres away.2 A tiny group of Baptists completed the
urban Christian landscape in Huambo. Despite a pattern of territorial organization
that tended to keep mission flocks apart, building their own villages, going to their
own schools and promoting same-denomination marriages, that was not always the
case, especially in urban areas. Moreover, many families had members belonging to
different Christian churches and the way they dealt with this varied greatly. In town,
Protestants shared neighbourhoods with both 'pagans' and Catholics and there is no
evidence for conflicts based on religious allegiance.
The present work focuses on Huambo and its urban-rural interaction but
Christianization also induced 'modernization' in and around the main rural Missions
where people were adopting some 'urban' ways. Not surprisingly they often tried to
push their sons and daughters to the city, against the missionaries' wishes. This
chapter concentrates on the development of a Catholic network, which after 1940 had
its centre at Huambo, where urbanization, social change and Christianization where
intrinsically connected.
The Catholic Church: from privilege to marginalization and to privilege again
Local strategies and actions are more relevant for this chapter than the ups and
downs of the lifelong relationship between the Portuguese empire and the Catholic
Church, but a few paragraphs are needed to clarify how state-church relations in
Portugal impacted on Angola at large and on Huambo in particular.3 The more or less
Adventists were in Bongo since 1923 and in Huambo since 1927. Lawrence Henderson,
The Church in Angola: A River of Many Currents (Cleveland, 1992), 102.
See Didier Péclard, 'Etat colonial, missions chrétiennes et nationalisme en Angola, 19201975: aux racines sociales de l'UNITA', PhD thesis, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris,
2005, 96-135. On the subject but not specifically concerned with central Angola, see
Eduardo dos Santos, L'état Portugais et le Problème Missionnaire (Lisbon 1964); David
willing complicity between Christian missions and European empires in Africa is
well known: even while standing against colonial abuses, most Christian
missionaries would not question the supremacy of their own culture, their right to
intense proselytising and the benefits of the rule of 'civilized' European governments.
Colonial states, in turn, were obliged by international agreements to protect Christian
missions. State agents, white settlers and missionaries often had different agendas
and often collided over 'native' policies or local issues, but European rule and cultural
supremacy was not disputed until much later.
The Catholic Church had long been associated with Iberian expansion, despite
occasional state-church conflicts, and nineteenth-century missionary revival was
again valuable to counteract the advance of (foreign) Protestant missions in the
context of the Scramble for Africa. Lack of missionaries forced Portugal to rely on
foreigners like the French Holy Ghost Fathers (or Spiritans), the most influential and,
for decades, the only male order in Angola.4 Despite occasional suspicion about their
loyalty, the Spiritans got public recognition from the state not only for their spiritual
work but for their help in expanding 'Portuguese civilization' and defeating African
'rebels'.5 Their missions often provided accommodation and intelligence to
Birmingham, 'Angola and the Church', in D. Birmingham, Portugal and Africa
(Athens/Ohio, 1999); Manuel Nunes Gabriel, Angola: Cinco Séculos de Cristianismo
(Queluz, 1978), which is apologetic of both the Catholic Church and the empire but has
useful information; Silva Rego, Lições de Missionologia (Lisbon 1961).
In 1865, the Spiritans were authorized by the Pope to go to Angola and adjoining regions.
In 1873 they established themselves in Landana (present-day northern Cabinda), in 1879
entered southern Angola and in 1889 founded their first mission on the plateau in Caconda,
where they were joined, in 1892, by the Sisters of Saint Joseph de Cluny. From there the
Spiritans came to Huambo, in 1910. For their history in Angola, see Cândido da Costa, Cem
Anos dos Missionários do Espírito Santo em Angola 1866-1966 (Nova Lisboa, 1970).
See Maria Emília Madeira Santos and Maria Manuel Torrão, Missões Religiosas e Poder
Colonial no Século XIX (Lisbon, 1993), 3-14. In 1934, Father Keiling, the head of the
Spiritans in Angola (1909-1937), was awarded the 'Ordem do Império'. See Keiling,
Quarenta anos,vi.
Portuguese military campaigns, although some individual missionaries would rather
have avoided doing that.6
However, the impact of the Spiritans in Angolan society went much further and
was not always in tune with the Portuguese government; moreover, Angolans
converted and taught by missionaries had their own aims, expectations and
achievements. That goes against Linda Heywood's assumption that 'the rise of
Ovimbundu Catholics had little impact on the rest of the Ovimbundu population',
since the Catholic Church 'was not an institution where Ovimbundu Catholics found
opportunities to continue the innovative adaptations that had become a distinguishing
factor … since the beginning of commodity trade'.7 Heywood sees the Catholic
Church as simply 'an arm of the state' and 'an overwhelmingly missionary institution
with mostly foreign personnel', which the Estado Novo transformed into 'a statecontrolled organization managed by supporters of the regime', and, after the
Concordat of 1940, into 'a branch of the government … to educate and socialize
Africans for eventual assimilation into Portuguese society'.8
While in the early days of the Portuguese Republic (1910-1926) the Catholic
Church in Portugal lost property and privileges and suffered amid widespread anticlergy actions, in Angola most missions were untouched and administrative
authorities usually remained sympathetic to their work.9 Anti-clericalism led indeed
to the closure of several urban parishes, the departure from Luanda of female orders
and the short-term evacuation of a few missions threatened by extremist republican
As it happened in 1902 in Bailundo. See Chapter 2. Also Keiling, Quarenta anos, 117,
148, 151, 157 and passim.
Heywood, Contested Power, 52.
Ibid, 93-4. See also 51-61. All credit is given to 'the Protestant factor' in her discussion of
'the origins of modern Ovimbundu identity'. Rightly pointing to the complicity between the
Catholic Church hierarchy and Portuguese colonialism, Heywood treated 'Ovimbundu
Catholics' as almost irrelevant and lacking agency.
See Michael A. Samuels, Education in Angola, 1878-1914: A History of Culture Transfer
and Administration (New York, 1970), 112-18. For a recent discussion, Péclard, 'Etat
colonial', 112-23.
settlers. But appeals for moderation were soon heard: even a Masonic republican
newspaper, while harshly criticising Catholicism, tried to persuade its readers that
international treaties on missions should be respected and that the disappearance of
Catholic missions would only entail undesirable expansion of the anti-Portuguese
Protestant ones.10 Protestant and Catholic missions were for the first time equal under
the Portuguese law, but much of the relation with state institutions depended on the
goodwill of civil servants and on personal ties between missionaries and the local
Chefe de Posto. For Protestant missions things were better than before except for the
imposition of Portuguese as the only school language.11
Republican imperial policy treated Catholic missions' as allies in Portuguese
colonial enterprise, despite diplomatic rupture with the papacy caused by the 1911
law establishing separation of the church and state. When this was applied to the
colonies (Decree 233, 22 November 1913) together with legislation on the missões
civilizadoras laicas ('secular civilizing missions'), governors were allowed to support
Christian missions, provided the Portuguese language was taught. In 1918, Portugal
resumed diplomatic relations with the papacy and in 1919 Catholic missions overseas
gained legal status, something the Catholic church in Portugal only got in 1926, and
state financial support.12 Further legislation protecting missionary activities
culminated in the 1926 'Statute for the Portuguese Catholic Missions in Africa and
Timor'.13 Secular missions were forgotten and 'Portuguese Catholic missions' (with
A Reforma, 24 December 1910, 1; 17 December 1910, 1; 31 December 1910, 1 and 2.
See Péclard 'État colonial', 116-18.
Decrees 5,239, 10 March 1919 and 5,778, 10 May 1919.
Estatuto Orgânico das Missões Católicas Portuguesas de África e Timor (Decree 13
October 1926). Its 'Preamble' was written by several dignitaries of the church including
Alves da Cunha from Angola. José Guimarães, A política "educativa" do colonialismo
português em África: Da I República ao Estado Novo (1910-1974) (Porto, 2006), 67-70.
Also Manuel Alves da Cunha, Missões Católicas de Angola (Luanda, 1935), 11.
or without Portuguese missionaries) became responsible for basic 'native'
So, republican radicalism hit the Catholic Church in Portugal but not its
missionary expansion in Angola: Spiritans moved their Huambo mission to Kwando
in 1911 and installed new missions at Sambo (1912) and Bângalas (1913) and
opened a few more in the 1920s. A contemporary Spiritan source noted they had not
suffered 'half of the misfortunes they feared when hearing about the 1910 revolution':
despite temporary evacuation of missionaries from Bailundo and Caconda, all went
reasonably well and 'missions even underwent a curious era of ephemeral prosperity'
thanks to the personnel coming from Portugal where institutions were closed.15
The 1926 military coup and the rise of Salazar in the 1930s further facilitated
state-church relations and paved the way for the Concordat and the Missionary
Agreement signed in 1940. Mutual rights and obligations were defined through the
Missionary Statute in 1941: material support and legal facilities given to Catholic
missions for their 'imperial utility' and 'eminently civilizing institutions' greatly
helped in the competition with Protestants and changed Angola's religious panorama.
The Catholic Church was allowed to expand its education and health activities in the
colonies, got back its former possessions, could be given land plots as big as two
thousand hectares for its institutions and could freely use state railways for
transportation of building materials. The colonies' annual budgets included sums for
dioceses and missions, bishops received high salaries and travel expenses and all
missionary personnel were treated for free in state hospitals. The state 'entirely
entrusted' to the missions the 'natives' education which should be 'essentially
The republican editor of the Jornal de Benguela hailed the measure and described as
'bigoted Jacobinism' the belief that 'the savage African populations' could, for educational
purposes, be compared to the metropolitan population. Jornal de Benguela, 16 April 1926,
Father Joaquim Correia, Civilizando Angola e Congo: os Missionários do Espírito Santo
no Padroado Espiritual Português (Braga, 1922), 73-6.
nationalist, practical … and considering the social situation and the psychology of
the populations'. Portuguese language was mandatory except for the teaching of
religion and Catholic missions were responsible for training 'native' teachers with the
obligation of using only Portuguese training personnel. In all other activities foreign
missionaries could be used if necessary but they would formally have to declare to
accept the rule of Portuguese laws and courts.16
Successive laws added privilege to Catholic institutions and personnel, like
equivalence of marriage and birth certificates to the civil registry and tax exemption
for their teachers and catechists, giving Catholicism very practical advantages in the
eyes of Africans.17 However, in Huambo the Bishop soon complained about the lack
of state support for 'native' schooling and noted that many teachers, recruited among
ex-seminarians and ex-pupils from mission boarding schools, left for better paid jobs
with the CCFB and other firms. Catechists were unpaid and many, he believed,
would be lost for church work if it was not for exemption from taxes.18
When Huambo was founded, Catholic influence in public life was at its lowest
point, as the absence of a church in the city plan demonstrated. Left with just part of
the land formerly occupied by the mission, Spiritans deserted the place before the
city's foundation and moved their Huambo mission twenty kilometres eastwards.19
Their uneasy relation with republican authorities, however, was not the main reason
for their departure: early missions usually established themselves away from
'civilized' urban centres which were supposed to be served by parishes. Moreover,
the ambiance around the railway building sites was considered a bad influence on
Decree 31,207 (5 April 1941). Secretariado da Propaganda Nacional, Portugal e a Santa
Sé - Concordata e Acôrdo Missionário de 7 de Maio de 1940 (Lisbon, 1943).
See António Brásio ed., Spiritana Monumenta Historica, Angola (vols. IV e V) (Louvain,
1971) [hereafter Spiritana], 842 ff. For catechists, see below.
'Rapport au Gouverneur General d'Angola 1946-1947', 05 May 1947 [hereafter 'Rapport
1946-1947'], by Bishop Junqueira, also complaining about restriction over non-Portuguese
missionaries in Catholic missions. ACSSp, 3L1.20a/a2.
See Chapter 3.
Christians. So the Catholic missionaries left, but their influence remained through the
inhabitants of the 'mission village', a few black families living north of the railway
like Luiz Sambo and some European settlers and civil servants.20
Thirty years later, when the Concordat was signed and the Diocese of Nova
Lisboa was created, 26 of the Spiritans' 52 missions in Angola were located in the
Prefecture of Cubango and Vicariate of Huambo, which were almost entirely
included in the new diocese (see map 4).21 Ruling over parishes and missions in a
vast area of central-southern Angola, Huambo was the Episcopal seat despite
Benguela being the seat of Portuguese administration in the area. The Catholic
Church consolidated its highly visible presence in town with a proper, although
modest, cathedral.22 Almost simultaneously, Spiritans erected the Holy Cross
Mission (Missão de Santa Cruz), widely known as Missão do Canhé (Kanye) near
the main concentration of CCFB 'native' workers in Huambo.
In 1932 Rome had appointed Moisés Alves de Pinho, a Spiritan who
'resurrected' the order in Portugal after republican persecution, as bishop of the
Diocese of Angola and Congo. After ecclesiastical reorganization in 1940, he
became Archbishop of Luanda and Daniel Gomes Junqueira, also a Spiritan, was the
Bishop of Nova Lisboa. 23 During the 1940s and 1950s, the power of the Catholic
missionaries, priests and catechists reached its height in the region, with rapidly
Roma Machado mentioned the 'native village of the blacks of the Mission' near the
Sacaala river and in his initial plan signalled 'houses of the Catholic natives'. Machado,
'Início', 41, and his 1912 sketch in Machado, 'A Cidade'.
By papal decision (04 September 1940) executed in January 1941, the Diocese of Angola
and Congo gave way to the archdiocese of Luanda and the dioceses of Silva Porto and Nova
Lisboa, later on further subdivided. Even when the Diocese of Nova Lisboa became the
smallest of Angola, its Catholic population almost matched that of the Luanda archdiocese.
See Henrique Alves, Congregação do Espírito Santo: Cem Anos em Angola (Lisbon, 1966),
40; Costa, Cem anos, 221 ff. See also A Diocese.
The church received benediction on 1 November 1940 and became a Cathedral in 1941.
Costa, Cem Anos, 249.
So, two of the first three bishops, as well as the large majority of the clergy in our period,
were Spiritans. Instead of the Propaganda Fides, the usual governing body for missions, the
new circumscriptions were put under the Sacred Congregation of Extraordinary
Ecclesiastical Affairs. Henry J. Koren, The Spiritans: A History of the Congregation of the
Holy Ghost (Pittsburgh/Louvain, 1958), 555.
growing numbers of adults and children baptized and involved in church activities.
Spiritans, with a few female orders working along with them, dominated the
missionary field and the education of a 'native' elite at the seminaries and teachers'
training schools.24
In the 1960s, a period beyond the scope of this research, significant changes
occurred: economic growth and the end of the Native Statute prompted social
upward mobility out of Missions' protection and control; seminaries were no longer
the only way for 'natives' to get secondary education; and Congregationalists and
other Protestants became more visible in Huambo, although Catholics remained the
absolute majority.
The Missionary Agreement did not change the relationship between Protestant
missions and the Portuguese state but clearly favoured the Catholic Church, causing
some to argue that it breached former international treaties, especially by giving
Catholics exclusive rights over 'native' education. In practice, because of insufficient
Catholic means, Protestants went on with their schools but their missionaries felt
they were more and more seen as 'a foreign body' as the political tone increasingly
equated 'Portugalisation' with Christianisation. Congregational missionaries in
Huambo tried a conciliatory policy with Portuguese authorities, often based on
personal relations, not to mention the use of Protestant medical services, in order to
help their fellow church members in occasional conflicts or to get a bilhete de
identidade.25 But they could not prevent some from 'converting' to Catholicism to
have a better chance of escaping taxation and forced labour.26
Spiritans also dominated the Catholic missionary press. In Portugal, they re-launched in
1944 Portugal em África. Revista de Cultura Missionária fundada em 1894 [hereafter
Portugal em África]. In Angola they helped to publish, after 1941, Boletim Eclesiástico de
Angola e São Tomé [hereafter Boletim Eclesiástico] and O Apostolado.
Tucker, the most influential missionary there, organized a visit by Minister of the
Colonies Vieira Machado to Ndondi in 1943 when he was visiting Huambo: see Péclard,
'État colonial', 131-132. Machado was usually hailed for the Missionary Agreement, the
In a few decades, then, the Catholic Church in Portugal went from a powerful
position to marginalisation and back to a privileged position again, with both the
state and the church aware of the importance of their alliance in the colonies, where
missionary expansion continued unabated. In Huambo Posto Sede, before Kanye
mission was founded, the 'native' population already counted 25,313 Catholics
(roughly 70 percent), a congregation mostly due to the actions of the Kwando
mission catechists.27
What did Christian faith 'overcome'?
Information about pre-Christian religious beliefs collected among Umbunduspeaking peoples since the nineteenth century must be used with all usual caveats
about informers, collectors and context. Those beliefs included the idea of a distant
god creator of the universe but not involved with human problems, the worship of
ancestors who could help or harm their descendents, and the influence of multiple
spiritual forces in everyday life, leading to strong dependence on diviners and on
protective charms and rituals.28 Generally speaking, the Ovimbundu were not
different from neighbouring peoples but, unlike some of them, they were rather
receptive to new cults and flexible about customs that were mandatory elsewhere. A
catechists' exemption decree and his overall support of the Catholic missions. Traço, June 1944,
13; idem, September 1944, 3.
Guilherme Santos' parents exemplified that: his Protestant father came from
Andulo/Ndulu to Huambo in the late 1940s, converted to Catholicism and married his
mother, a local Catholic woman. Interview with Guilherme Santos, Luanda, 17 May 2010.
Family and kin ties were usually not broken by a religious divide. In a different vein,
Heywood considered that those moves towards Catholicism 'threatened to weaken the still
emerging modern Ovimbundu identity', which she identified solely with Protestants'
development. Heywood, Contested Power, 119.
Census 1940, IX, 12.
McCulloch, The Ovimbundu, 36-8; Carlos Estermann, 'Missão de Angola e o culto banto,
culto de espíritos e magia', Etnografia de Angola (Sudoeste e Centro): Colectânea de artigos
dispersos (Lisbon, 1983) [hereafter, Colectânea] II, 1-21; Leona Tucker, 'The divining basket
of the Ovimbundu', Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 2 (1940), 171-201;
Wilfrid Hambly, 'Occupational ritual, belief, and custom among the Ovimbundu', American
Anthropologist, 36, 2 (1934), 157-67; Raul Asua Altuna, Cultura Tradicional Banto (Luanda,
case in point was male circumcision and related initiation rituals in secluded camps
which, even before colonial rule and missionary activity, were virtually non-existent
in most areas or mandatory only for those of high-ranking positions, although more
generalized among southern Ovimbundu. Such practices were expanding after 1940
in some areas, apparently due to the influence of their Ngangela neighbours,
according to missionaries who were fighting 'traditional' initiation in southern and
eastern Angola.29
Long-distance trade and population movements created in central Angola an
environment of relatively easy and sometimes short-term adoption of practices and
rituals from other regions and peoples, especially fashionable while associated with
success and empowerment in any field. Some Christian symbols and celebrations had
travelled to the area long before the arrival of missionaries, due to commercial
contacts and the presence of resident traders from established areas of Portuguese
rule. This cultural tolerance and taste for novelty probably accounts for the
documented receptiveness towards 'foreign' cults, secret societies, 'sisterhoods', and
possession by exotic spirits. Christian missionaries benefited from such openness
before being in turn challenged by new cults among their faithful or resurgence of
old practices in troubled times.30
Novel beliefs and practices tended to be incorporated into existing religious
systems, otherwise they would not make sense. The idea of a creator in the old
religion facilitated Christian monotheism. The creator's name, Suku, once used also
Traço, February 1946, 4; Francisco Valente, 'Divagação ou ponderação: a circuncisão dos
povos no centro de Angola', Portugal em África, 28 (1971), 5-16, 33-8, 97-109, 193-204,
285-96. Based on available literature, McCulloch concluded: 'It is not known whether the
rites have been taken over by the Ovimbundu from neighbouring peoples, or whether they
represent a custom formerly widespread in Umbundu country': McCulloch, The Ovimbundu,
44. See too Childs, Umbundu Kinship, 59 and 115-117; Hambly, The Ovimbundu, 226.
Carlos Estermann, 'Culte des esprits et magie chez les Bantous du sud-ouest de l'Angola',
Colectânea, I, 253-85, especially 257-8; 'Inovações recentes no culto dos espíritos no sul de
Angola', idem, 353-66; 'A possessão espírita entre os Bantu', idem, 367-90; 'Ovi-kaviula.
Apontamentos sobre um rito singular existente no centro de Angola', idem, II, 149-66.
for family deities and personal guardians, was adopted by both Catholics and
Protestants to name the Christian God. The translation of many other words caused
greater concern among missionaries: adapting old Umbundu concepts could create
confusion and syncretism while accepting neologisms (some already used by
common people) threatened the purity of the Umbundu language.31
In the old religion, Suku was thought to be too remote to receive prayers but
village headmen could spend the night in the small house for honouring the ancestors
(etambo) 'praying to or communing with ancestral spirits'.32 Happiness or
unhappiness, illness and death depended on spirits like ovilulu (bad spirits) who
could act out of revenge because of human actions or failure in honour them. They
could act directly through spirit possession (okusingila ondele) or indirectly, causing
illness in any part of the body (okuvela).33 Main religious rituals were performed at
local level, the village headmen acting as priest for the oluse patrilineage which
formed the basis of the village, and the head of oluina matrilineage acting 'as priest
for his dispersed, maternally-related group'.34
Ocimbanda (pl. ovimbanda) was a generic word for diviners and healers; the
diviner proper was ocimbanda congombo (the basket, ngombo, and its content were
essential to his/her performance) and the herbalist and healer was ocimbanda coviti
(of trees or sticks, i. e., botanical medicines). They often became experts on specific
problems, some working in their village or in a certain chiefdom, while others went
Joaquim Valente, 'Conceito de doença e cura em Caconda e Bailundo', Portugal em
África, 5 (1948), 330-4; Carlos Estermann, 'A terminologia cristã na Diocese de Nova Lisboa',
Portugal em África, 8 (1952), 7ff.; 'Problema da terminologia cristã: o vocábulo evangelho',
Revista Ocidente 34 (1972) reprinted in Colectânea, II, 243-54. José F. Valente, 'Divagação',
102-9. For a recent discussion on translation by Spiritans among the Ovimbundu, see
Iracema Dulley, Deus é Feiticeiro: Prática e Disputa nas Missões Católicas em Angola
Colonial (São Paulo, 2010).
McCulloch, The Ovimbundu, 37.
Valente, 'Conceito', 330. Spirit possession is mentioned by all authors, but see especially
Estermann and Hastings.
McCulloch, The Ovimbundu, 36. Similarly, the religious role of the Christian catechist
was not disconnected from his social leadership in the village, especially before the spread
of modern communications.
'on professional journeys carrying their baskets, and accumulate profits in animals
and cloth. The greater the reputation of the diviner, the greater the charges he makes
for his services'.35 Only very few Christians would not consult the 'legion' of
practicing herbalists despite 'considerable magical basis in their traditional beliefs
concerning the properties of the plants used'.36
Christian missionaries, especially missionary doctors and nurses, were seen as
able to replace ovimbanda in dispensing medicines and 'charms', advising on material
and spiritual matters, but useless on sorcery and rainmaking. Narratives of Jesus's
miracles, however, made a great impression and some missionaries feared that some
converts 'almost reduced His work to that of a kind of divine magician'.37 Catholics
got further spiritual security through devotion to saints and different representations
of the Virgin Mary, who supposedly specialized in diverse human problems.
Sculptures and images, thought to have special powers, fitted well into local
traditional beliefs: images distributed by missionaries in medals and small cards
(santinhos) became talismans, no matter what theologians said about it. Display of
cult objects and the priests and bishops' ceremonial clothes reinforced their
association with power and wealth: 'the pomp of the religious ceremonies', Cunha
wrote in 1935, 'makes a deep impression upon the childish soul of the native and
contributes with efficacy to the abandonment of cruel and fetishist practices'.38
Christianity influenced an emerging new conception of individual aims and
expectations, fostered by economic opportunities and loss of control by village or
lineage elders. As elsewhere, conversion to a different faith caused social and family
ruptures, with Christianity offering a new 'family', with 'fathers', 'sisters' and
'brothers' (and, for Catholics, Mary as 'mother'). Christ himself was mentioned saying
McCulloch, The Ovimbundu, 36-37.
Childs, 'The Church', 189.
Ibid, 190.
Cunha, Missões, 26.
that his mother and his brothers were those who followed him and shared his beliefs,
not necessarily his relatives.39 The message in several passages of the New
Testament was one of individual choice against the determinism of blood ties,
helping to justify 'rebellion' against family, lineage and political power.40 It is easy to
imagine how, in an urban environment, that new religion provided newcomers with
both a safety network of 'brothers' and a justification to move away from 'traditional'
ways of living.
Evidence of people's receptivity to Christianization can be hinted from the
generalization of certain cultural practices, the choice of first names being a case in
point. European and/or Christian names were still rare in the early twentieth century,
except for a few Christians and people tracing their roots to the established
Portuguese colony. Then, baptism contributed to massive change in first names,
helped by another 'foreign' practice, namesake (sando), by which parents named their
children after someone they wanted to honour or to emulate. A new baptismal name
was consistent with former practices of name changing in initiation rituals and
adoption of different names in one's life and Christian names soon largely displaced
Umbundu first names. Initially a sign of distinction, taken from the Bible and (for
Catholics) from the saints' list, soon Christian names were copied by many nonChristians and became common.41
It is difficult to assess the extent to which old beliefs survived the intensity of
Christianization in central Angola. Much depended on place and social milieu but
also on personal and collective circumstances, since distress and insecurity caused
New Testament, Mark 3:31-35.
Biographies of the converted often emphasized 'rebellion' against 'pagan' parents or
authorities. For an Angolan case, see Lawrence Henderson, Development and the Church in
Angola: Jesse Chipenda, the Trailblazer (Nairobi, 2000), 38-51. For criticism of relying on
'uprooted' people, cut off from their kin, for new leaders, Childs, Umbundu Kinship, 70-1.
See Childs, Umbundu Kinship, 86-7 on naming (okuluka); Edwards, The Ovimbundu, 878. Elisabeth L. Ennis, 'Women's names among the Ovimbundu of Angola', African Studies,
1945, 1, 1-8. For 'traditional' Umbundu first names, see Francisco Yambo, Pequeno
Dicionário Antroponímico Umbundu (Luanda 2003).
old practices to reappear or to be reinvented for specific purposes. At the beginning,
'heathens' were the vast majority and indigenous religious concepts and practices
continued openly or covertly among Christians, as many missionaries recognized. In
the 1930s, writing about Bailundo, where his fifty-year old Congregational church
had a majority of first generation Christians, Hastings synthesized the situation using
a local saying: 'Cimbamo te eci, ci kasi peka', that is, 'what is in your hand you can
throw away; from what is in your heart you may not free yourself'. Loyalty to
Christian principles was not enough to prevent some reverting to 'practices involving
the kindred spirits, the forcing of clan or sib members to remove the supposed evil
which they have caused through spiritistic [sic] agency' or seeking aid from 'psychic
power'.42 Convictions were harder to eradicate when death or life-threatening
problems were involved, and catechists had to promote spiritual safety through a new
set of collective and individual rites, such as those offered by Catholic sacraments
and all the ritual attached to them.43
Fearing much more for current life than for the after-life, as Childs noted,
Ovimbundu resorted 'to charms, fetishes and other magical means of protection', and
even among Christians 'the power of the malignant spirits' were feared and old
practices endured. Christians were less prone but not immune to belief in and fear of
witchcraft, although the Church forbade accusations of sorcery. Openness to change
had caused 'cultural and social breakdown to be far advanced' and 'the dissolution of
the old religion' but nonetheless 'syncretistic practices' existed among Christians,
Hastings, Ovimbundu, 282-309 and 312. Hastings worked in the Congregational mission
at Mbalundu (1916-1930s), except for his furloughs (1923-1925 and 1932-1933) during
which he completed his widely quoted but never published thesis.
Archbishop Pinho noted, in a Pastoral Provison (1949): 'we only suppress what we
substitute, so it is important to make a very frequent use of the sacraments, both to abolish
vestiges of pagan superstitions and to promote Christian piety': Portugal em África (1949),
188-9. Edwards observed that the sacraments were emphasized (by catechists) as 'the
distinctive mark of Catholicism against Protestantism': Edwards, The Ovimbundu, 85.
more commonly 'through the protection and help sought for the solution of personal
problems such as sterility, sickness and other crises which may confront one'.44
Witchcraft accusations hindered the accumulation of individual wealth, since
individual success created suspicion unless the person distributed it within the
kinship circle and beyond.45 As such accusations (okusunga owanga) were strictly
forbidden among Christians, sins like 'envy' and 'avarice' ('mortal sins' in the Catholic
catechism) partly carried the old ideas: misfortune of better-off people was 'caused'
by someone's envy, and people not sharing their wealth would be criticised as
'avaricious'. Accusations of sorcery were often disguised under accusations of
'poisoning' brought to civil courts, church elders and missionaries.46
Missionaries seldom recognized that, more than any other single factor,
Christianization subverted the power of the olosoma by taking away whatever
religious and judicial roles they could still perform under colonial rule. Because of
Ovimbundu trading history, economic initiative had long ceased to be exclusive of
kings and political allegiance could shift between different rulers without social
collapse. Under colonial rule, the lack of economic and political power further
undermined the olosoma's control and prestige but they still represented the top of a
structure to which people belonged, beyond their epata (extended family). Chiefs
were supposed to perform necessary rituals for good harmony between the living and
the dead, and between humans and the spiritual powers that could endanger them.
When disputes could not be solved by individuals or lineage elders, olosoma were
asked to decide and punish, although murder and other serious crimes had (in
principle) to be taken to the Portuguese administration. For Christian converts,
Childs 'The Church', 188-9. 'Church' here did not include 'the Roman Catholics' but their
situation was similar.
See the statement of Raul Kavita Evambi, of Ciyaka, quoted in Childs, Umbundu Kinship,
Ibid, 56-8.
pressure was immense to turn to the missionaries and their delegates as new moral
authorities and not to compromise with 'pagan' institutions.
Based on his Bailundo experience in the 1930s, Hastings concluded that due to
Portuguese rule (no mention of fifty years of Christian missions), the impact of
European civilization 'has tended to supersede and practically to destroy indigenous
institutions'. If succeeding chiefs 'sacrosanct and sovereign by the will of the tribe
and the indwelling presence of the ancestral spirits' were still in their old olombala,
they were 'perpetuating some of the royal cult activities together with a fiction of
government, although they know that the white man's suzerainty has reduced their
political authority to a sham'.47
In late 1950s, writing about Protestants in central Angola, Childs explained the
shifting of social authority to church leaders, including judicial functions, as the
result of 'the breakdown of traditional authority … so rapid that the social life of the
villages is now very near to complete anarchy', compelling missions and churches to
take over and administer 'their own moral codes, based in part on the old mores, but
compounded with European custom and Christian demands'. Church meetings, both
local and regional, had become courts and councils and, in a development that was a
'mixed blessing' for the Church, 'catechists, deacons, and pastors have taken on
judicial functions' and church meetings 'became courts and councils'. Following
missionaries who had been 'rulers and judges' in the past, 'some pastors succumb to
ever present temptations and become rulers and judges' themselves.48
In 'native' neighbourhoods in Huambo, the Portuguese administration used
olosekulu to secure taxation and labour whenever necessary, which obviously made
them unpopular. As the population grew, round-ups to catch undocumented people or
tax evaders increased, with olosekulu risking punishment if they did not cooperate
Hastings, Ovimbundu, 31-2.
Childs, 'The Church', 189.
with cipaios. 49 The youth-elder divide also had new aspects: those more able to
introduce their fellow Christians to 'urban' life patterns and survival skills were not
necessarily the family or church elders. Respect for old hierarchies was indeed
eroded by both Christianity and socio-economic change and, if anarchy was not
really in sight, as Childs feared, the decline of 'traditional authority' was evident. The
political, spiritual and ritual powers and functions of the soma were irreversibly
challenged, not only by colonial rule but also by the new religion, actively promoted
by laywomen and laymen, especially catechists, who controlled and redistributed
locally the spiritual (occasionally material) gifts they received from Christian
Vakwasikola: 'People of the school'
In 1935, the Catholic Church in Angola claimed that 2,750 'native catechists', helped
by their wives, were 'the indispensable auxiliaries of evangelization as teachers, lay
preachers and propagandists', each of them in charge of a 'rudimentary school'.50 Ten
years later, the Diocese of Nova Lisboa alone, covering roughly a quarter of Angola,
had 2,656 catechists, two thirds of them on the plateau, a clear indication of the
Catholic expansion in the area.51 In 1956, this Diocese had been significantly
reduced but had nearly half a million baptized Catholics and 4,307 catechists.
Huambo became the most Christianized region of Angola and the Catholics' share of
converts greatly increased after 1940.52
For those studying African Christianity, it has long been clear that any
impressive growth was mainly the result of the agency of local men and women.
Missions went from initial failures and setbacks to success stories in a very few
See Chapter 5.
Cunha, Missões, 20-21.
Traço, 5 (October 1944), 7-8, based on the annual report.
'Rapport Annuel 1956-57-58', ACSSp, 3L1.20 a 5.
decades and credit must go to those first generation Christians who soon were not
following the missionaries but going ahead of them.53 All missions tried to match
their catechists with suitable wives who in turn helped to select girls to be sent and
trained at the missions. The catechist had 'the full skills of a ritual expert' and his
wife 'also had status for she generally knew how to read and write and was
responsible in part for teaching women and girls the catechism, telling their rosary
beds, reciting Hail Marys, handing out medals, and leading new songs', not to
mention spiritual help to the sick and those fearing evil spirits.54
After 1910, catechists, their wives and 'elders' in charge of chapel-schools
(olosekulu kwasikola) were at the heart of Catholic expansion in the Huambo area
and their work as evangelists went well beyond their original missions' territory. In
eastern Angola, where many people from the plateau were settling or temporarily
working, a Catholic mission was not established until 1933. Yet Catholicism
expanded due 'to the catechist posts and to the Christians educated in the plateau's
missions, today employed at the railway service or established along the line',
stimulated by periodic visits of Father Baião from the Kwando mission.55
In this battle for souls, no device was more important than the school, no
matter how deficient it was. In Umbundu, Christians were called vakwasikola, those
of the school (sikola, from the Portuguese escola) and people would say
ndukwasikola, 'I belong to the school', meaning 'I am a Christian', although not
See, for instance, J.D.Y. Peel, '"For who hath despised the day of small things":
Missionary narratives and historical anthropology', Comparative Studies in Society and
History, 37 (1995), 581-607. For the only Angolan area 'occupied' by Franciscans and not
Spiritans, see Afonso Nteka, Construtores do Reino: Reflexão sobre a Acção
Evangelizadora dos Catequistas na Diocese de Uíje (Angola) (Padova, 2003), 65-82 and
Phyllis Martin, Catholic Women of Congo-Brazzaville: Mothers and Sisters in Troubled
Times (Bloomington, 2009), 61.
Cunha, Missões, 26.
necessarily a 'true' baptized one.56 Catechists were supposed to teach an elementary
catechism but also basic reading and writing; until trained primary teachers began to
take their place in late 1950s, catechists were village 'teachers' and only at central
missions did proper primary schools exist. In practice, Catholic catechists were often
accused of delivering too much doctrine and not enough teaching, while Protestants
considered reading essential to Christian life. In any case, catechist posts and
schools, where Christian communities congregated for worship and learning, became
decisive in social organization and change and the more distant the mission the more
important the role of catechists and their wives.57
As noted before, Catholic activities in Huambo initially depended on the
Kwando Mission following the usual pattern of Christian villages, facilitated by few
restrictions about land use outside the city perimeter and the CCFB concession.
Catechetical schools (escolas de catequese), converted into chapels whenever
necessary, were at the centre of hamlets of people already baptized or on their way to
be. In time, population growth and land occupation by white settlers interfered with
that pattern and catechists had to care for people scattered all over, many settlements
mixing Christians and non-Christians. But in the 1920s-30s, urbanization was just
beginning and most of the Huambo Posto Sede population was involved in
agriculture and related activities. The main differences with 'typical' rural
catechetical schools would be a greater mix of origins and a lesser role of olosekulu
and old aristocracies, that is, an even greater importance of catechists as community
Edwards, The Ovimbundu, 77. Henderson, The Church, 142-3. Cf. Peel about Yoruba
Christians known as Onibuku ('Book-people') and his comments about writing as a new
'magic': J.D.Y. Peel, Religious Encounter and the Making of the Yoruba (Bloomington,
2000), 223.
For a comparison between Catholic and Protestant catechists' authority, see Edwards, The
Ovimbundu, 83.
As reported in 1950: 'Catechists … accompany the Christians to the missions for
baptisms, marriages, Confirmations, the devotion of the first Fridays each month, in a word,
The catechists' role as intermediaries both with the missionaries and the
Portuguese administration, as well as their control over the Catholic faithful, slowly
declined when roads, railways and urbanization allowed civil and religious
authorities more frequent visits.59 Even then, in rural areas as in peri-urban
neighbourhoods, they were an essential part of the Catholic network and the basis of
the hierarchical structure of the church, their influence going well beyond religious
matters.60 Working for the mission exclusively or as a part-time job, those men (and
their wives) were responsible for, and interfered with, the social behaviour of their
part of the mission's flock. This contrasted with catechists' recruitment and role in
Catholic parishes, where catechism was usually taught by priests, seminarians or any
member of community with spare time and good will.
A 1928 photograph of 36 new catechists of the Kwando Mission reveal their
acquired social status. Despite no shoes in sight and some sartorial heterogeneity
(three men wearing ties and three wearing coats with no shirts), everyone wears
trousers and coats and many have a flower in their lapel. They were probably dressed
up for the occasion, emulating white settlers and the 'civilized' black merchants but
also following missionaries' policy on clothes. Some looked more comfortable than
others in their outfits but all displayed their higher rank among fellow Christians (see
figure 1).61 European coats had long been used by olosekulu and well-off Umbundu
traders, but until the 1910s trousers and shoes had only been adopted in central
in all religious acts'. 'Rapports quinquennaux 1945-1950', ACSSp, 3L1.20b1 (hereafter,
'Rapports 1945-1950'). Also Edwards, The Ovimbundu, 80.
On the impact of roads in central Angola, see Neto, 'Nas malhas'. Cf. Jan-Bart Gewald,
'Missionaries, Hereros, and motorcars: mobility and the impact of motor vehicles in
Namíbia before 1940', IJAHS, 2-3 (2002), 257-85.
Missionaries held them accountable for Catholics' behaviour; household problems were
usually reported to them before being reported to the missionaries. Interview with Pedro
Capumba, Luanda, 20 January 2006.
ACSSp, 3L1.32b, 'Photos d’Angola'.
Angola by a tiny minority.62 European-style clothes and haircuts became distinctive
features of men and boys associated with all Christian missions. Military
conscription and the cipaio police also contributed to the dissemination of new
styles, but their uniforms (shirts and shorts) were different from the European ones
and could not be imitated by civilians.
In the Catholic Church a greater flexibility on clothing was applied to women
until later on, but dresses, skirts and blouses were the norm for boarding school girls
educated by the nuns - many of whom became the spouses of catechists and teachers.
They also made crocheted or knitted boots, bonnets and shawls for their babies,
useful in the highlands' cold dry-season weather.63 As late as the 1950s, in less
Christianized areas, the Catholic church was careful not to alienate women on the
grounds of their dress (even bare breasts) but in Huambo area everyone had to go to
the church 'dressed with all decency'.64
In 1931, the Kwando mission counted on its 320 catechists to cover 'practically
all the Huambo region' including the town area. They were not paid by the mission:
Catholics and catechumens provided for them, many working one day weekly on
their catechist's field and further helping him and his family.65 This system went on
for decades and could not be enforced on such a large scale against the will of people
People from Caconda were supposed to be the pioneers of European style on the plateau:
Augusto Bastos, 'Traços geraes sobre a ethnographia do Districto de Benguella', BSGL
(1908), 173.
In 1892 the nuns of Saint Joseph of Cluny began their work in Caconda, teaching girls
basic reading, catechism and 'European' domestic chores, preparing them to marry Christian
men. Photographs show their European dress style. Manuel Gabriel, Caconda, Berço da
Evangelização no Planalto Central de Angola (Lisbon, 1991). Photographs accompanying
Bishop Junqueira's reports from the 1940s onwards show cohabitation of old and new styles,
the latter apparently predominating in Huambo.
Bishop Junqueira to Mother House, 28 August 1950, ACSSp, 3L1.20b1. Justifying photos
from southern Angola revealing women's 'nudity', the Bishop explained that with 'more
stubborn tribes' missionaries 'considered advisable to go slower with demands on women's
dress', allowing the traditional outfit. Cf. Martin, Catholic Women, 63, on the dress code of
catechists' families.
Father Sutter, 'Huambo: Nossa Senhora das Vitórias (1910)', Bulletin de la Congrégation
(February 1931), 55-6. In the 1950s the catechist still did not receive a salary but he might
'persuade his flock to cultivate a field for him' and to have the school 'and perhaps a house
for visiting missionaries' built 'by the school people'. Edwards, The Ovimbundu, 77.
already under pressure from the colonial administration and settlers' demands. In the
absence of direct testimony from the newly converted, one has to take the expansion
and acceleration of conversions as proof that Christian missions were bringing
something interesting enough to justify such collective effort and individual
commitment.66 Missionaries themselves felt overwhelmed by the exponential growth
of that African Christianity which flooded the missions' premises and surroundings
(and the priests' confessionals) in the great celebration days, as Father Sutter wrote in
1931: 'we spend four or five days at the confessional until half past eleven at night …
In the first Fridays of the month [a devotional practice] some people come from fifty
and sixty kilometres away to receive communion'. Ill people were 'carried in
hammocks by friends in order not to interrupt their communion novenas'.67
The famous 'Ovimbundu response' to Christianization that many authors have
underlined did not really take off until most had lost economic and political control
to Portuguese traders and administrators in the first decades of the century.68
However, once change began, it quickly gathered momentum and catechists, to
which the missions delegated part of their spiritual and organizational powers,
enjoyed undisputed authority in new all-Christian settlements and were providing a
new leadership in many other villages too. Their formal recognition by the
Portuguese administration and their intermediary role challenged that of 'traditional'
chiefs, since even non-Christians could look for the catechists' help.
There is now an abundant literature on conversion related to Christian missions and
colonialism. See J.D.Y. Peel, Religious Encounter, 1-9 and 215-247. As he writes, the
challenge is how 'to blend the three narrative themes … missionary endeavour, colonization,
and the endogenous development of African societies': idem, 2. My kind of sources do not
allow a discussion on the anthropological and psychological implications of conversion.
Father Sutter, 'Huambo', 55-6.
Diocese reports often compare Ovimbundu with more reluctant societies further south
where missionaries struggled to catch people's attention and faithfulness: 'in certain
southernmost areas where they are more stubborn, clothes and work at the Mission are
offered in order to attract them'. 'Rapports 1945-1950'. But among the Ovimbundu,
'numerically the most important tribe', work was undoubtedly 'more successful'. 'Rapport de
la Visite du Pe. Estermann en 1950/ Nova Lisboa', ACSSp 3L1.28b3, 2, 7-8.
Catholic catechists, tapping into the influence of their church over Portuguese
officials, were often better able to represent peoples' interests at the administrative
post while 'traditional' authorities were used mostly to convey orders from it.
Catechists could 'invoke the authority of the mission' and use the latter's influence
with the administrative authorities either to intervene on the side of somebody or to
cause problems to 'undesirables' like diviners and baptized polygamists, whose
activities catechists were supposed to report to the mission.69 Protestant catechists
who made a good impression on local authorities were also allowed to play an
intermediary role, to the detriment of olosoma or olosekulu.
Catholic organization, although keeping the catechist in a subaltern role,
enhanced his spiritual position by letting him share some of the priests' powers, like
baptizing and anointing in extremis. As ability to read was not as important as it was
among Protestants, Catholics also depended more on their catechist for knowing and
interpreting the sacred texts. Culturally closer to the mass of baptized and
catechumens, catechists were more able than missionaries to 'translate' Christian
ideas into their culture, certainly changing both in the process. Funerals were a case
in point: most of them were led by catechists because of distance or shortage of
priests and many old practices became entangled in Christian rituals.70
Keeping people apart from old practices demanded substantial changes in
everyday life. The daily routine and Sunday activities in a typical Catholic catechism
school implied a good length of time spent in religious activities. Every morning the
catechist or the sekulu of the school gathered at the chapel-school all the baptized
and catechumens, children and adults, for morning prayers before the catechism
Edwards, The Ovimbundu, 80-1.
Worries about the subject translated into leaflets and instructions to catechists, such as
Okukenda Ku'akristão - Enterro Cristão: para Uso dos Catequistas ['Christian burial: for
use by catechists'] (Nova Lisboa, 1964). To prevent syncretistic rites in funerals,
Congregationalists had forbidden 'the slaughtering of oxen for the entertainment of funeral
guests': Childs, 'The Church', 188-9.
lesson. In the evening, after working in the fields or in town, they gathered again for
another catechism lesson, collective recitation of the rosary and an evening prayer.
Umbundu language was the norm, with occasionally hymns in Portuguese or even
Latin. Evening meetings could also be preceded by dancing and singing nonreligious songs or be used for public announcements, as before in the 'pagan' ocila
(the central open space in villages for meetings and dances, which were suppressed
in Christian villages).71 On Sundays, they either went to the mission, if not too far
away, or listened to the catechist reading and commenting the Gospels, the rest of the
time being occupied with religious songs and the recitation of the rosary. The chapelschool (Catholic villages were identified by the wooden cross over it) was used by
missionaries on occasional visits to celebrate Mass and to baptize, as was the case on
the outskirts of Huambo before the Kanye mission was erected.72
Under the Decree 77 of 1921, any 'native' catechist or evangelist, Catholic or
Protestant, needed an identification card issued by local Portuguese authorities (at their
discretion, after proposal by the mission's principal) and whenever schooling was
involved they had to prove ability to speak Portuguese.73 The decree apparently gave
them privilege over other 'natives' but the subsequent 1926 Native Statute granted them
no special rights, so taxation and labour obligations applied unless administrators or
Chefes de Posto decided otherwise.
In the 1940s, Catholic priests described catechists as a 'true army of the church'
or a 'small well organized army' putting them at the core of the effort of conquering
pagans and overcoming rival Protestants.74 How catechists saw themselves is hard to
Interview with Faustino Nunes Muteka, Luanda, 16 February 1991. Bimbe is probably a
good example of daily rural routine: 'only a few people turn up for morning prayers,
considerable more to evening prayers, and nearly everybody who can be considered a
'school person' comes to the Sunday gathering': Edwards, The Ovimbundu, 78.
'Status Missionis - Rapport Juillet 1942 - Janvier 1944', ACSSp, 3L1.20a/a2.
See Henderson, The Church, 103-5.
For instance, 'Rapport quinquennal 1940-1945', 4 and 8. ACSSp 3L1.20a /a2. Such
military language was common among all Christian missions.
know from my sources but they certainly used their role inside the church to their
own advantage, since the Catholic Church was never short of catechists after the
Missionary Statute and subsequent legislation, exempting all Catholic catechists and
teachers from the native tax if they could speak Portuguese.75 Their status was not the
full citizenship granted by the 'civilizado' legal status and the Portuguese bilhete de
identidade, but their exemption from the poll tax and forced labour certainly boosted
interest in belonging to the Catholic network, as Bishop Junqueira acknowledged in
1950: 'It may be said that it is this privilege accorded by the Portuguese government
that allows Missionaries to get such a great number of catechists'. 76 Aware of that,
Protestant missionaries in the 1950s were paying the taxes of every catechist
accepting a one-month course taken at mission stations, an 'incentive' justified 'as a
recognition of their work, in a sense putting them on a par with their Catholic
The Catholic position was enhanced by a state-funded 'new modality of native
assistance' which trained some catechists as nurses and gave lessons on childcare to
their wives, expecting them to add health and sanitary education to spiritual
guidance.78 In 1949, the state offered a six month course for Catholic nursecatechists who, after an exam of competence and trustworthiness made by a doctor,
got medicines from the state for their schools and would receive a monthly subsidy
of between 400 and 500 angolares, 'a great help' to the Missions.79 Protestants never
got official subsidy, despite their supremacy in health care and their well-trained
nurses having no problem in finding jobs outside their missions.
Decree 33,303, Article 9. Boletim Oficial, 1ª série, 5 January 1944.
'Rapports 1945-1950'.
Henderson, The Church, 105.
Voz, 20 November 1943, 9.
'Rapports 1945-1950'. See also Portaria 12,554, 13 September 1948, in Spiritana, 875-80;
Portaria 13 April 1949, in Spiritana, 889-93. Nurse-catechists course directors and
missionaries in charge of religious assistance to students got a 'monthly bonus' of one
thousand angolares.
Based on his fieldwork at Bimbe in 1956, Edwards concluded not only that 'the
catechetical school' was 'the only institution [grouping] people of different domestic
groups on a village-wide basis, and in which people participate in a wider set of
social relations on a village', but also that 'one can and does associate oneself with a
village if one does not belong geographically to it but simply attends its school.'80
This was most probably the case until the 1940s on the outskirts of Huambo, where
Catholics and catechumens were also living among non-Catholics but the
catechetical school was the centre of Christian settlements. In later decades,
demographic changes and the existence of the Nova Lisboa Episcopal seat and the
Kanye mission eroded catechists' power. On one hand, their intermediary role with
the mission and the state was reduced by their fellow Christians' easier access to both
institutions; on the other hand, missionaries and the church hierarchy, not catechists,
were in Huambo privileged interlocutors with the Portuguese administration.81
Nonetheless, catechists kept much of their importance, given the shortage of priests
to meet the rapid growth of converts and to assist (and control) the already baptized
Christians coming to town.
Expanding paid job opportunities in the 1950s meant that missions' pupils
would try other activities or become only part-time catechists. By 1960, the Diocese's
4,876 'precious' catechists without whom 'evangelization would be impossible' were
supposed to get their means of subsistence from different occupations and to give
two or three hours a day for church work. Their main material reward was still
exemption from taxes and forced labour.82 The Congregational Church also felt the
effects of socio-economic change, as those benefiting from a better education in its
Edwards, The Ovimbundu, p. 79.
In 1940, Father Sutter (in charge of the Catholic 'natives' on the city outskirts), was
received by the District authorities for matters such as checking lists of natives living in the
'Christian village' (15 February), 'denouncing gunpowder making and selling' (27 and 29
February), and asking the administration to substitute regedor Inocêncio because he had
already too much work as a catechist (24 June). ANA, Códice 7,444.
'Rapport quinquennal 1955-1960', 33. ACSSp, II. 3L1.30b2.
missions were looking for jobs in the CCFB or the state, often deciding to settle in
Huambo, counteracting the rural development project of their church.83
Catechists were leaders in their communities but they were still 'natives' in a
colonial world with very few opportunities for educational progress, making Catholic
and Protestant missionaries alike worry about their insufficient formal education.
Spiritans noted that the upsurge of catechumens and baptized had serious flaws, since
'many catechists were not up to the task' and had only a 'rudimentary religious
instruction' not to mention their little schooling. In the 1930s, however, pressure
from people wanting to be baptised and fear that Protestants would occupy any field
not covered by Catholics justified hurrying up catechesis.84 Spiritan reports revealed
that catechists' training was rather erratic until the 1950s, despite existing church
propaganda to the contrary. By 1950, some missions were using the boarding
schools, during students' holidays, for a two-month course with catechists from
different villages. Intensive courses in the dry season were also used by Protestants
with similar difficulties in getting adequately trained personnel - and keeping them.85
The Catholic world was largely a world of catechumens, a mass of people
where women outnumbered men, which populated not only the catechism schools
but the mission premises at the great feasts of the Catholic calendar. More than those
already baptized, they were 'the catechist's people', developing a symbiotic
relationship during the two to four years of 'initiation' imposed on 'pagans' before
A 1947 report mentioned the problem and urged people in charge to show to the faithful
that rural life 'can be as fulfilled and as free as life in town' while also appealing to the
needed 'sacrifice spirit'. Most Protestant missionaries still thought the future of Umbundu
Christianized society should be rural, not urban. Péclard, 'État colonial', 230-41; Edwards,
The Ovimbundu, 78. As late as 1967, Henderson was still struggling against that dominant
position: The Church, 314-5.
Father Sutter, 'Huambo', 55-6.
'Rapport Annuel du Diocese de Nova Lisboa 1941-1942' and 'Rapport Julliet 1942-Janvier
1944' informed there were no school for catechists' training. ACSSp 3L1.20 a/a2. In 1950,
schools for catechists were still missing although 'all the boys' boarding-schools in the
Missions are like catechists' seminaries': 'Rapport quinquennal de Catechese du diocese de
Nova Lisboa' 1945-1950, ACSSp 3L1.20b1. For Protestants, see Henderson, The Church,
being full members of the church. The catechism learning period reinforced social
relations, creating a strong bond among all involved, despite occasional disputes.
Boys and girls living in the missions' boarding schools usually had a shorter
Of the hundreds of catechumens reported in many catechism schools, however,
not all were baptized in the end. Spiritans wanted to avoid both 'difficult training that
practically excludes most catechumens by discouraging them' and 'hasty and
insufficient instructions' which in early days caused 'bitter disillusionment of
numerous apostasies'; apart from religious instruction, hymn singing and knowledge
of the basics of the Catholic faith, what was demanded was 'positive proof of his
willingness and his ability to live a Christian life and of his steadfast proposal to
persevere in it'.87 By 1930 the Spiritan General Mission Directory suggested a
probationary period of at least two years and the establishment of a postulate,
duration of which was left to the missionaries' discretion, open to all interested
(polygamous or not) in order to teach the basics and how to baptize in danger of
death. Catechumenate should be open only to 'those who show a sincere desire of
becoming Christians, who know the first truths, and who are willing to repudiate
idolatry and immorality (specifically polygamy)'.88
So, around a nucleus of full members of the Catholic Church there was a much
wider world of non-baptized people who more or less regularly listened to catechism
lessons, learned the hymns, participated occasionally in processions and other
religious celebrations, sometimes adopted Christian names and associated themselves
with the church, even if they could not claim the same protection, in case of a
conflict with colonial authorities, as a proper baptized Catholic.89
'Rapports 1945-1950'.
Koren, Spiritans, 479.
Ibid, 480.
Edwards, The Ovimbundu, 77-8. Cf. Childs about 'observers' or 'hearers' who could be
Kanye: 'The Mission is ours'
In the early years, the Kwando Mission (Missão do Huambo, 'Nossa Senhora das
Vitórias') was the main Catholic centre serving Huambo and most other towns along
the railway. Missionaries from Kwando came sporadically to town and celebrated
Mass in improvised places, while marriages and most baptisms, for both Africans
and Europeans, were organized at the mission. In 1932, an urban parish was erected
using temporary premises offered by Huambo municipality, converting former
workshops into a chapel for Sunday masses by the same missionaries working with
'natives' on the outskirts. After unsuccessful attempts to build a proper church, in
1936 the parish was given land in a central area of the town by the GovernorGeneral. Successive governors and the Banco de Angola provided money and at
Christmas 1939 the first Mass was celebrated there.90
In 1931, explaining the huge task of the Kwando mission, Father Sutter
calculated that it served a 'native' population of 25,000 Catholics, relying on 320
catechists, many with only an 'elementary religious instruction'. The mission's
capacity was overstretched and they were running too fast in search of converts but,
he argued, 'it was a matter of urgency' because Protestants would take over 'every
village not occupied'. Huambo itself would need a resident priest for its growing
white population of about 2,000, including civil servants, traders, manufacturers and
CCFB employees and workers. But the bulk of churchgoers were not 'whites':
At 8.00 a.m. the first mass is celebrated, at which are present mostly the
Blacks: servants, workers and others. The preaching is in the native language.
Usually they are between 500 and 600. At 10.00 a.m. there is a second mass,
for the whites, with a sermon in Portuguese and after that the catechism for the
said to belong to the (Protestant) Christian community at large, despite some having never
been in communion and others who were 'permanently or temporarily out of communion'
(mostly because of polygamy or adultery). So, Childs calculated the 'adherents' or 'total
Protestant population' in 1958 as 'perhaps 800,000' while the Angola 1950 census indicated
540,000 Protestants out of 1,912,747 Christians. Childs, 'The Church', 186 and 191.
See Costa, Cem Anos, 246-50.
white children. The Europeans, all claiming to be Catholic and showing much
respect for the Father, in fact come to the mass much less than the Blacks. For
the majority of them religion is limited to baptism of their children, marriage in
the church and a Christian funeral. About the other sacraments, they don't feel
their need, despite a few praiseworthy exceptions.91
By contrast, many African faithful walked tens of kilometres to the mission on the
first Friday of each month and for other special celebrations, 'forcing' priests to stay
until midnight, sometimes several days in a row, confessing all those who wanted to
receive Communion.92 However, a parish was not considered an appropriate answer
to the growing flux of 'natives' in towns and their outskirts. Spiritans claimed that
about 850 Catholic native families around Huambo justified a new mission there.
They recognised the urgent need to work more intensively with Africans arriving in
urban centres, and the example of Sá da Bandeira (Lubango) where the Spiritans had
long had 'the parish for the European and the mission for the blacks', was finally
followed in Huambo from 1942.93
Statistical data, however questionable, can help to measure the impact of
colonial policies and tell something about different groups' social visibility. This is
the case with the rather different percentages of Protestants for Angola as a whole
and for Huambo district, concelho and city, or the percentage of 'civilized blacks'
among Catholics and Protestants. In 1940, the Huambo District included three
Concelhos (Huambo, Bailundo and Caála) with the Concelho do Huambo subdivided
into four Postos: Vila Nova, Sambo, Quipeio and Posto Sede - the latter being our
focus. Subsequent administrative changes did not much affect Posto Sede which
included the city and the area within a nine kilometre radius where people came to
Sutter, 'Huambo', 56-7. See also Keiling, Quarenta Anos, 97.
Sutter, 'Huambo', 56. See also Father Keiling’s report quoted in Henderson, The Church,
As explained in the 1944 report to Rome, the first resuming contact after fascist rule.
'Status Missionis. Etats Statistiques et rapports annuels 1941-1948', ACSSp, 3L1.20a, /a2.
The premises of the new mission were built on land given by the state (twenty hectares) and
the CCFB (16 hectares). Costa, Cem anos, 250-3. In 1945 the state gave the mission 38
more hectares. Voz, 24 November 1945, 7.
town or its outskirts to work or to trade. From 1940 on, statistical evidence from the
state and from Spiritan archives helps to establish the scope and direction of
demographic changes, as well as to detect relevant differences inside given groups
('black', 'white', 'civilized').94 Official censuses confirmed a fast growing urban
population in the 1940s (16,288 in 1940, 28,296 in 1950), mainly due to an almost
doubling of the black population from 11,627 in 1940 (71.38 percent of the total
population) to 22,346 in 1950 (79 percent).95 Even before the Missionary Statute and
the diocese's creation, the importance of Catholicism was visible:
Table 3. Huambo: Religion among 'non civilized' population96
Religion among
'non-civilized' 1940
Posto Sede
Spiritan annual reports to their headquarters and to Portuguese authorities,
detailed as they were, gave only approximate and probably exaggerated numbers
about attendance at rural catechism schools. However, baptisms, marriages and
confirmations demanded accuracy and registry, for canonical reasons and because,
for 'natives', Catholic baptism and marriage certificates substituted for those of the
The 1940 Census is apparently much more accurate and certainly more detailed than the
1950 one, with data on legal status, race, sex, age, language, religion, literacy, type of
buildings in cities, and even professions and occupations of the 'civilized'. Statistical data
assembled in 1933 and published for the first Portuguese Colonial Exhibition as a 'general
census' were, as the editors explained, based on inquiries answered by administrative
authorities, complemented by District Governors' reports and diverse information. See
Alberto de Lemos 'Introduction' in both Census: Censo Geral, I, 3-76; Recenseamento Geral
da População II: 1950, 10-11.
Almost doubling again between 1950 and 1970, the last Census, when the city registered
61,885 inhabitants: 43,795 blacks, 3,382 mixed-race, 14,694 whites and 14 'other'. Direcção
Provincial dos Serviços de Estatística, Informações estatísticas (Luanda, 1974).
Based on the 1940 Census, IX, 12. Huambo District had 553,669 inhabitants, Huambo
concelho had 166,702, Posto Sede had 42,276 and, inside it, the city 16,288 inhabitants were
roughly 10 percent of the Concelho. In 1960, in the city and its outskirts more than 80
percent of Blacks were Catholics and less than 14 percent were Protestants. But in all
Huambo District, Protestants were 23.5 percent.
civil registry, providing valuable information.97 Numbers on other sacraments are
also useful: first communion (primeira comunhão) marked full participation in the
church life and confirmation (crisma) reinforced it and accounted for perseverance,
also allowing the tradition of godmothers and godfathers to develop personal ties
across social divisions. As for the catechetical schools, as available data distinguish
between 'catechumens', actually being prepared to the first communion, and the less
reliable number of catechesis goers, they can help us to assess the growth of the
Catholic black population in and around the city, as seen below.
In 1942, the Mission at Kwando controlled 31,295 Catholics (less than Sambo
with 33,330 and Bailundo with 46,127), with 163 catechists and 183 'adaptation
schools' (attended by 15,000 males and 15,519 females). The 'parish' of Nova Lisboa,
itself depending on missionaries, was doing missionary work on the outskirts of the
city, listing 30 catechists with their 'adaptation schools' (with 1,440 males and 1,600
females) for a total Catholic population calculated at 9,950. It had 337 adults and 449
children baptized and 156 marriages.98
The Holy Cross Mission at Kanye, inaugurated on 14 September 1942, initially
covered 140 square kilometres with an estimated population of 28,000, of which
7,800 were Catholics.99 In the next ten years this number grew to 13,240 and,
although keeping almost the same numbers of catechists, baptisms went from 565
(485 children) in 1942 to 715 (451 children) in 1952. Obviously the usual pattern of
one Christian village for each catechist was not always followed near town: one
catechist could cover several settlements and many Catholics were not under the
daily control of their catechist. And although religious affiliation could influence the
'Rapport quinquenal 1955-1960', 15. II. 3L1.30 b2.
Report 1941-1942. ACSSp, 3L1.20a. For baptism purposes, 'adults' included teenagers.
'Adaptation schools' was the new name for 'rudimentary schools'.
Missão de Santa Cruz or Missão de Nova Lisboa were official names of the mission.
choice of neighbourhood, many people settled disregarding that.100 Data for the new
Missão de Nova Lisboa were first disaggregated in the 1942-44 report, already
indicating 1,520 Catholic families. By 1945, the new mission had two schools (226
boys and 28 young girls) while 930 pupils were scattered in the 31 catechetical
In 1946, the visiting Superior came to 'the mission of the blacks of Nova
Lisboa', built in the area of CCFB, 'which employs them in great number'.101 Staffed
by Fathers Feltin and Sutter and one 'native priest' ('père indigène', without his name
given) plus two black teachers, the mission was responsible for the evangelization of
35 villages around the city, 'which can not be visited with results except at night,
after workers come back from town'. Regular contact was needed to support the
Christians 'coming from our missions almost everywhere' and also to convert the
heathen 'so numerous and from all races' (i.e. ethnic groups) and 'even those who are
only passing through on their way to the contract work'.
Prospects of a great
Protestant mission in the city made it urgent to support this mission, and 'it would be
absolutely necessary to have the Sisters working with the girls, as well as some
means to attract and divert the blacks from dangerous town amusements'. Football
and other sports were used whenever possible to divert people from the material and
spiritual dangers of alcohol abuse and the 'lascivious' and 'sinful' local dances.102
The 1950 report claimed that the mission had more than 10,000 Christians and
praised Father Sutter for organizing it for urban natives, noting that Angola was well
All my interviewees mentioned one or more Protestant families scattered among
Catholics. But Santos also referred to Catholics and Protestants divided by a small stream, in
his Fátima neighbourhood in the 1950s, which did not prevent socializing. Interview with
Santos, Luanda, 17 May 2010.
For this and other quotes on this paragraph, Report on Missão de Nova Lisboa by Father
Clemente da Silva. 'Rapports particuliers à chaque mission 1945-1946: 2'. ACSSP,
For a study on leisure, sport, missionaries and social control in a colonial environment
not far from Angola, see Phyllis Martin, Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville
(Cambridge, 1995).
behind other African colonies in that field.103 In 1952 it was reported that a new
mission church was being built with a lot of material help from some whites but also
'from the natives which, being numerous and having money, are much interested in
having that beautiful church'.104 Those 'natives' were said to work mostly for the
'very wealthy' CCFB which provided the mission with land, electricity and water, for
free.105 Despite complaining about the 'language and race' mixture due to workers
coming from different regions, Father Pereira was happy about '4,000 Christians
each Sunday at the three masses, a great use of sacraments and the pleasure listening
to God's word'. A black priest spent four or five days a week visiting 'the many and
well populated' villages and schools around Huambo, coming back on Friday to help
in the mission.106
The development of Kanye cannot be detached from urbanization and its
consequences, but it was also influenced by its position at the Diocese's centre, close
to the Bishop and with frequent visitors from other dioceses and from abroad.
Among the black population in and around town, Catholics grew from 7,800 in 1942
to 13,240 in 1952 and 19,000 in 1959, when they represented already more than half
of the total black population. In 1959 there were 4,000 Catholic families and it is
impossible to tell which part of this growth was due to Catholic immigrants and
which resulted from local conversion. But the latter is well visible through the
baptism of adults: 80 in 1942, 264 in 1952, and 863 in 1959. Annual baptism of
'Rapport de la Visite du P. Estermann en 1950 / Nova Lisboa', February 1950. 3L1.28b3,
'Rapport de la Visite du P. Clemente Pereira', February 1952. 3L1.28b4 /2. Spiritan
missions in the Ovimbundu area had introduced 'a kind of tithe' and as the many faithful
'gave willingly', it was 'an important help for the missions' work', so much that Father
Estermann reminded priests of their poverty vows. 'Rapport de la Visite du P. Estermann en
1950 / Nova Lisboa', February 1950. 3L1.28b3, 2/.
In fact the bulk of the Catholic men and women who contributed to the Church lived on
agriculture, petty trade, domestic services and other non-skilled services in town. See
Chapter 4.
'Rapport de la Visite du P. Clemente Pereira', February 1952. 3L1.28b4 /2. The repeated
use of 'native priest' instead of the priest's name is significant. See below.
children amounted to around 450 but this does not reveal birth rates, as it would be
the case in established Catholic communities: children's baptism depended on their
parents' previous Catholic marriage, often delayed for many reasons, even for
couples with several children. Marriages at the church went from 97 in 1942 to 166
in 1952 and 188 in 1959 and, together with children's baptisms, they give further
evidence that Huambo was not a concentration of single male immigrants. In fact the
male-female ratio was balanced among 'natives', in contrast with a predominantly
male 'civilized' (massively white) population.
Catholic growth around Kanye accelerated in the 1950s: from 1950 to 1959
catechists went from 37 to 84, catechumens from 184 (95 female) to 528 (228
female), catechetical schools from 4,250 attendants (2,500 female) to 19,000 (13,000
female).107 Baptisms went from 802 (604 children) to 1,293 (430 children) showing a
steady movement of conversions, also visible in the first communions: 344 in 1950
and 800 in 1959. Education statistics now made a clearer distinction between
catechetical schools and 'adaptation schools' and while in 1950 only two of these
were registered (160 boys and forty girls), in 1959 they were eight (647 boys and 135
girls), plus two workshops for vocational training (18 boys and thirty girls) supported
by two boarding schools (18 boys and sixty girls).108 In 1953, five Sisters from the
Spanish-based Company of Saint Teresa of Jesus, together with one certificated
'native' teacher, taught girls and little children at a primary school, with a total of 463
Superiority of female attendance was recognizable in all reports. A comparison between
Kanye and the overall Diocese in 1950 shows, as expected, a greater concentration of
Catholics around the city: 60 percent of the calculated population against only 37 percent in
all the Diocese.
'Ano 1959 - Relatório das Missões Católicas da diocese de Nova Lisboa', ACSSP,
3L1.30b, I.
pupils.109 Teresians came to Kanye in 1952 and were considered essential in the
'teaching and domestic training of 'native' girls and women'.110
Female orders were not covered by this research but a few comments are due
about their role in cultural change and also in social engineering through marriage
choices for 'the nuns' girls'.111 Since the old days in Caconda, when their pupils
helped to form and spread Christian villages on the plateau as part of the missionary
strategy, the influence of the Sisters of Saint-Joseph de Cluny grew up steadily in
what became the Diocese of Nova Lisboa.112 Catholic women's education most of the
time was centred on making good Christians and good wives, teaching new ways of
childcare, 'modern' domestic organization, sewing, as well as working in the fields.113
Nuns' activity as nurses and teachers created a 'women's world' that, although
subordinated to priests, enjoyed some autonomy.114 In late 1950s a kind of revolution
was occurring in the new training schools to staff the 'native' education system,
entrusted to male and female Catholic orders.115 It allowed women to get secondary
education and earn money in a permanent job. Fostered by missionaries, marriages
'Nova Lisboa. Compte rendu annuelle 1953', ACSSp, 3L1.20b, 2.
Established since 1949 at Bela Vista mission, Teresians were also in charge of the first
'Escola de Habilitação de Professores de Posto' (teachers training) for girls in 1958. Costa,
Cem anos, 252, 259.
In Catholic Women, Martin made good use of oral interviews and the archives of Saint
Joseph of Cluny Sisters.
See Alves da Cunha, 'Para a história das primeiras vocações religiosas femininas em
Angola', Boletim Eclesiástico, III, 16 (July-August 1943), 174-5; Maria C. L. da Silva, As
Missões Católicas Femininas (Lisbon, 1960).
The tasks of the Saint Joseph of Cluny Sisters working close to Spiritans included the
'obra das noivas' (working with fiancées) especially designed to prepare girls for marriage
and domestic chores. 'Rapport quinquennal 1940-1945', ACSSp 3L1.20a /a2. Cf. Martin,
Catholic Women, 79, 83.
Cf. Heywood on early Congregational action and 'womanhood' reconstruction:
'Ovimbundu women'. Her otherwise interesting approach suggested the exceptionality of
that experience without any comparison with other contemporary Protestants or Catholics.
In 1950 (Portaria 7,079) the Escola de Preparação de Professores Indígenas, later
'Escola Teófilo Duarte', was created at Kwima (Cuíma) as an inter-diocesan 'native teachers'
training school entrusted to the Spiritans. Costa, Cem Anos, 264-70. Until Angola's
independence more than one thousand teachers were trained at this and similar schools,
some run by the state. Eduardo Muaca, Breve História da Evangelização de Angola (Lisbon
1991), 65.
between students from those schools became common in the 1960s, a teacher couple
meaning faster progression in the social ladder.
The Catholic occupation of Huambo was first due to catechetical schools
operating similarly to those in rural areas but the foundation of Kanye resulted in a
distinctive urban mission. The popularity of Catholicism reflected the fact that the
more people became Catholic the more Catholicism was the main religion on offer in
town. Photographs documented great moments of social and religious celebration,
with the presence of the Bishop. Christmas, Easter, Corpus Christi and other
occasions saw massive gatherings and processions, but other forms of devotion were
also generalized, namely those concerning some saints and the Virgin Mary.116 As
Gray and others have suggested, Marian devotion could benefit from local traditions
of queen-mothers and other high-ranking women and it was boosted by the fact that
even non-baptized could share recitation of the rosary and other popular practices.
Furthermore, it provided a distinctive symbol in the rivalry with Protestants.117
The mission quickly developed as a space of socialization to where people
converged on Sundays and for special celebrations, when its surroundings were full
of women and men who enjoyed the occasion to share news, to meet relatives and
friends and to make new ones. 'Going to Mass' and spending Sunday in related
activities, from confession to meetings of devotional groups, was to enjoy
conviviality in a space where 'natives' were the absolute majority and did not feel
displaced or intimidated. The spontaneous development of a market nearby, mainly
Thousands of photos are at the Spiritan archives, mostly as part of annual reports. For
crowds at Kanye, for instance, ACSSp 3L1.29 a (1948-1949), 3L1.30 a2 (1958), 3L1.30 b
(1959 and 1960), the latter showing people camped outside the new church. Brother
Agostinho, the Bishop's photographer and driver, registered also his public appearances at
official receptions, football matches and inaugural blessings of industrial premises.
Richard Gray, 'Christianity', in A. D. Roberts (ed.), The Cambridge History of Africa,
vol. 7: From 1905 to 1940, (Cambridge, 1986), 168. Martin, Catholic Women, 59-66 and
for peasant and artisans' products, spoke to the importance of the gathering and in
turn attracted more people into the orbit of the church.
In later years, both before and after Angola's independence, I often heard the
claim 'the Mission was our church!' testifying a sense of possessing and belonging
that was not felt by most black people when they went to parish churches.118 The
Bishop's reports confirmed these worlds apart inside the supposedly united Catholic
Church, exposing how much the colonial situation shaped Christianity's evolution in
Africa. In Huambo's history, the parish-mission divide reinforced 'racial' segregation
in the development of urban communities but it also created a public space where
self-esteem was possible for people otherwise seen and treated as inferior.
The forging of an elite and the difficult emergence of an African clergy
Seminarians and priests have to be included in any study of upward social mobility
in central Angola, a process which after the 1940s had its epicentre in the city of
Huambo.119 Christian 'modern' elites were also being educated in rural environments
as exemplified by the main Congregational centre at Ndondi or the Catholic Teachers
School at Kwima, but even for them the city's attraction was undeniable.120 Before
the end of the Native Statute in 1961, seminaries were the only full post-primary
education centres for 'natives' otherwise excluded from enrolment or examination in
state secondary schools.
Even families living nearer parish churches preferred Kanye. Interviews with Capumba,
Luanda, 20 January 2006, and Santos, Luanda, 17 May 2010.
For this section I benefited from many conversations throughout many years. I specially
thank Father Bongo, once the Superior of the Angolan Spiritans, for our meeting in Luanda
on 16 June 2005.
See Péclard, 'État colonial', 199-251; also Péclard, '"Eu sou americano": Dynamiques du
champ missionnaire dans le planalto central angolais au XXème siècle', Lusotopie (1998),
373-4. A male nurse from the Congregationalist Bunjei mission bought a house in Huambo
for his four children (including a girl) to go and study there: Interview with Muteka,
Luanda, 16 February 1991.
Immediately after the creation of the Diocese of Nova Lisboa, its bishop,
supported by the local press, was lobbying for a seminary which would reflect the
new importance of the town, as well as allowing better control of the seminarians'
education and adding splendour to the cathedral's Mass.121 In 1947 the new Christ the
King Seminary, under Spiritan direction until 1970, became part of the city's physical
and social landscape, strengthening the intellectual and spiritual role of the Episcopal
See in a developing political, economic and administrative centre.122 The space
allocated by the authorities for the church, the bishop's residence and the seminary
was near the city's civic centre and from then on, no matter how secluded
seminarians would be, the local Catholic elite was educated in an urban environment,
although the great majority of the candidates came from and would return to rural
This rural and Bantu-speaking (not always Umbundu) cultural background of
the great majority of black priests and seminarians in Huambo, as well as the blurred
urban-rural divide in the city surroundings, counterbalanced their essentially
European 'elitist' education, facilitating their role in bridging gaps between 'rural' and
'urban', 'traditional' and 'modern', 'civilized' and 'native' people.123 Like other
missionaries, Spiritans identified towns with greater spiritual threats, so the option
for the city was even more interesting, although in the 1940s they could hardly
foresee its later development. This involuntary and partially unwelcome exposure to
urban aspects of European life and culture resulted in mixed feelings of admiration
Costa Cem Anos, 256. For Spiritans' preference for an 'impressive' Roman liturgy, Koren,
Spiritans, 490. For the local newspaper: Voz, 24 October 1942, 6 and 30 October 1943.
For the seminary, an area of 40,000 square meters was given by the government.
'Rapport 1946-1947'.
Some in the church hierarchy feared the Seminary was 'Europeanizing' seminarians too
much and 'yielding too much to their ideas and demands'. Father Clemente Pereira's visit
report (15 February 1952), ACSSp 3L1.28b4. Cf. the opinion among some 'civilized' black
Angolans that seminaries far from Luanda were full of 'sons of sobas and catechists' with no
fine 'manners': Cardeal Alexandre do Nascimento, Minhas Origens e Aprendizagens:
Autobiografia (Luanda, 2006), 47. For his seminary experience with Spiritans in the 1940s,
idem, 45-63, 75-86.
and criticism among the seminarians, also giving them a greater awareness of racial
discrimination and social exclusion.
Christianization always meant deep cultural changes at individual and
community levels, especially in the proselytising years when local cultures were seen
as more of a liability than an asset. Despite the aims of missionary organizations, the
strategies of their Angolan flocks often pointed to other directions and both Catholic
and Protestant Umbundu elites tended to identify 'urbanization' with 'modernization'
and a 'modern' advanced education with better living standards and social status.
Nonetheless, after the first decades when Catholic and Protestant missionaries alike
developed rural-centred activity, their diverging policies towards growing
urbanization and their different treatment by the colonial state had consequences for
the African elites they fostered. Those educated in the Catholic seminary at Huambo
were longer and more deeply exposed to Portuguese influence.
Spiritan policy in Africa aimed at producing local clergy from the very
beginning but initial results were poor: 34 priests between 1844 and 1924 in the
entire continent. Reasons included the 'almost insuperable handicap of clerical
celibacy' and 'the powerful attraction of a lucrative job for ex-seminarians who were
then among the very few natives with a higher education'.124 By the late 1930s,
numbers were increasing and Spiritans' statistics for Africa mentioned 290 native
priests in 1956 trained in 33 seminaries; in 1960 there were more than 330 African
priests and nearly 300 seminarians preparing themselves for ordination.
In Angola, Spiritans were in charge of the diocesan seminary transferred from
Luanda to their Huíla mission between 1882 and 1907.125 The first black Angolan
Koren, Spiritans, 498. For their initial poor results in southern Angola, Spiritans blamed
the background of their students: 'pagan, perverse and immoral' for blacks (many ex-slaves),
'dissolute' for the mixed-race (mostly 'illegitimate') and opportunist for the whites who just
wanted education for free. Father Antunes to the Bishop, 10 July 1892, Spiritana, IV, 139-43.
A 1896 seminarians' photo showed 13 blacks and 19 whites and mestiços.
António Brásio, A Missão e o Seminário da Huíla (Lisbon, 1940). Samuels, Education,
Spiritan (and the only one until the 1960s) was Luís Barros da Silva. Born of
Christian parents in Bié, Silva studied in Huíla and Luanda and was ordained in 1895
after completing his studies in Portugal where he entered the congregation in 1897,
returning to Huíla to work and teach philosophy until his death in 1931.126 The first
seminary in the Huambo region opened at Sambo (1921) and moved to Ngalange
(1922) from where the Senior Seminary moved successively to Nganda (1932) and
Cipeyo (1935) while a Junior Seminary developed at Kahala which also received the
Senior Seminary between 1937-1947.127 In 1934, António Abel Mayambi de Pinho,
from the Kubango mission, was the first ordained priest of the future Diocese - and
the only one until the 1940s.128
The Seminary at Huambo reflected the church-state cooperation after the
Concordat, but increasing numbers of seminarians were mostly a consequence of the
political and socio-economic environment.129 As Bishop André Muaca later wrote:
'the native who wanted to study further had to go to the seminary or to play football',
since 'all colonial governments were always afraid of the natives' intellectual
advancement' fearing that 'leaders would emerge and cause trouble' and Portugal 'for
a long time had this fear in the extreme.' The three-year 'rudimentary' education
officially entrusted to the Catholic missions only gave access to the official primary
104-10 and 176 (Appendix with students' list 1889-1911).
All other so-called 'native priests' trained in the Nova Lisboa diocese until 1960 did not
belong to any congregation. António Brásio 'Le Père Louis Barros da Silva, Spiritain',
Spiritus, (1961), 242-51. Gilles Pages, 'Le Père Louis Barros da Silva (1868-1931), premier
spiritain angolais', Mémoire Spiritaine (April 1995), 106-22. Costa, Cem Anos, 287.
Costa, Cem anos, 242, 253-7.
Photos of this ordination exist in Spiritan archives. In 1950, this 'first native priest of the
diocese' was put in charge of the new Pucusso mission. 'Rapport 1950', ACSSp 3L1.20b4.
In 1944, the Diocese's ten parishes and 33 missions were served by eighty priests (69
Spiritans and eleven secular, of whom three were black), 148 sisters, eight European
auxiliaries and 47 'native auxiliaries'. Two new 'native priests' were ordained and seven
'native sisters' entered the S. Joseph of Cluny order in Caconda. A Diocese, 7.
Between 1934 and 1967, 81 African priests were trained in the Huambo Seminary. Costa,
Cem Anos, 253-7.
school and the few 'natives' completing the latter would not be admitted to a
secondary one anyway.130
Seminaries as providers of academic advancement to children from poor
families were a common option in parts of rural Europe. In Angola, where both
deprivation and the Native Statute prevented access to secondary schools, the role of
the Catholic seminaries in educating an Angolan (male) elite went beyond the small
Angolan priesthood. Under the indigenato policy, Catholic seminaries were the only
way opened to 'natives' to further education, meaning better jobs in both public and
private sectors and facilitating 'citizenship'. Despite their efforts and commitment to
education, Congregationalists could only get official recognition for the first two
years of secondary school with final examinations passed at government schools.131
For the Catholic Church, despite complaints about too much investment for
only a few ordained priests, that was not a bad deal: ex-seminarians, with few
exceptions, were still part of the wider Catholic community, often working for the
church as catechists, teachers and clerks. Since seminary courses were given
equivalence to those at secondary school, the Catholic church could educate a 'native'
elite like no other Christian church could. In 1960, Bishop Junqueira reported that
In 1970, André Eduardo Muaca became the first Angolan bishop, as 'auxiliary of the
Luanda archbishop'. Until 1974-5, just before Angola's independence, no other black
bishops were appointed. In 1991, he noted: 'More than half of the Angolan bishops and
more than half of the diocesan clergy are the result of the Spiritans' work.' See Muaca, Breve
História, 53, 65.
The Currie Institute at Ndondi had a two-year general course for selected pupils coming
from a three or four-year primary course at mission stations' schools and in 1953 it got
official permission for teaching those two years of technical secondary school. This mislead
some people to mention equivalence to 'high school' (Liceu), but high school education was
only available for 'citizens', who could enter government or private high schools elsewhere,
for five years more. A 1957 Congregational leaflet, aimed to get financial support from
fellow Christians in United States for future Angolan 'potential leaders', announced that
Ndondi was 'the only opportunity for secondary education for Africans in the large central
area of Angola', totally ignoring Catholic institutions: ABCFM, 'Christian Leaders for
Angola', 1957. Henderson, however, acknowledged the higher academic level of Catholic
seminaries: The Church, 152. No university existed in Angola until 1963.
only 3 percent of entries in the Junior Seminary became priests and complained that
seminaries had become 'free education institutions for the blacks.' 132
The number of priests grew, nonetheless, and Catholic 'native' families had
reasons to be pleased with one of their members becoming a priest. Despite the
inability to produce descendents, priests' status, influence and eminent spiritual role
came with clear material advantages. Priests had only a little money but their
material needs were met by the Church and the faithful, including support in illness
and old age. Secular priests were given a monthly subsidy for personal needs, not to
mention 'alms from their benefactors or from the special Masses they say'. So they
were able to help their families in more than one way and it was not unusual for
priests' relatives to move to a village nearer their mission.133
In a context of white hegemony, black priests' academic formation and
developed oratory skills gave them intellectual leverage while the priesthood
enhanced their social position in society at large. As consecrated priests of a religion
seen as European and ruled by Europeans, they had appropriated part of their rulers'
power, even when submitting themselves to colonial authorities and being
discriminated against. They were conscious of (and seen as) belonging to a world
religion centred in Rome whose chief was 'above' all colonial powers. However,
defiance of colonial rule would receive no support from the Portuguese church
leadership entangled in the imperial Portuguese project.134 In 1957, the Spiritan
'Rapport 1955-1960', ACSSp II. 3L1.30 b2. There were many ex-seminarians among
high-ranking post-independence military staff and civil servants. In 1997, ministers,
generals, lawyers and university teachers were among alumni celebrating the fifthieth
anniversary of Christ the King Seminary in Huambo.
'Rapport 1955-1960', 28-31. On his 1958 application for 'citizenship', Lucas Capitango,
19 years old, claimed that he lived at the expenses of his brother Father Caeso at the Kanye
Mission where he did his 'elementary' 3rd year. 'Autos de averiguações administrativas para
concessão de alvará de cidadania. Huambo 1959'. ANA, Avulsos, Pastas.
As evident in the new Portugal em África (1944 onwards) and at the major colonial
exhibitions. See Luis Sánchez-Gómez, 'Imperial faith and Catholic missions in the grand
exhibitions of the Estado Novo', Análise Social, 44 (2009), 671-92. A few attempts at
radical missionary change in the 1960s ended in removals from Angola, including the
Superior was aware of change among seminarians: 'As everywhere in Africa…our
blacks have also entered the general movement of emancipation. In this District this
is a fact mainly among the seminarians and the 'mbundu' [Ovimbundu] population.
We must be prepared for such an evolution'.135 But Bishop Junqueira was adamant:
I continuously insist on priests not to involve themselves in politics. Some of
them disobeyed me at the last elections by taking sides against the current
political situation. I strongly censured them for that. Given the current situation
in Africa, it would be difficult for the native priests not to be tempted to get
involved in politics favouring the separatist movement but for the time being I
do not know any cases. At all times I warn them of the danger of these political
Advice to avoid politics was not exclusive of the Catholic Church, but its
privileged position under the Missionary Statute and its open allegiance to the regime
were unparalleled. The impact of that difference in Protestant and Catholic elites in
central Angola has been acknowledged, sometimes so far as to claim much greater
anticolonial or 'nationalist' predisposition among the former. In fact, it was not
necessarily the case, not only because proximity often results in more not less
antagonism, but mainly because Christian churches' policies were not the main factor
in anticolonial feelings and 'national awareness'. The 'Protestant missionary-centred'
and the 'Catholic Portuguese-centred' narratives oddly converged in that picture of
disaffected Protestants and loyal Catholics.137
The Ovimbundu frame of the Congregationalists' work and their emphasis on
an Umbundu church could be contrasted with the Catholic network cutting across
principal of Huambo's seminary in 1968. See Henderson, The Church, 308-10; Waldo
García, 'The two churches of Angola', Africasia, 57 (January 1972). García was one of the
expelled priests.
Father Belo (28 February 1957), 'Visites Annuelles (1952-1958)', ACSSp, 3L1.20b2.
'Rapport 1955-1960', 25. This was before the 1961 uprisings in Luanda and northern
Angola, but there were already several dozens of people in prison accused of 'separatism'.
The elections mentioned were the 1958 Portuguese presidential ones. Apparently, the Pope
explicitly forbade seminarians' intervention in political activities: Nascimento, Minhas
Origens, 85.
See Péclard, 'Religion and politics in Angola: The church, the colonial state and the
emergence of Angolan nationalism, 1940-1961', Journal of Religion in Africa, 28 (1998),
administrative, ethno-linguistic and statutory frontiers, suggesting that Catholics had
much better chances than Protestants of developing an Angolan-wide identity. But
this fails to acknowledge that Ovimbundu Protestants' experience, as workers or
otherwise, all over Angola and beyond, had also consequences in their Angolan
'national awareness' and affected the Congregational church itself.138
Those questions have been discussed by authors like Heywood and Péclard, but
here the focus turns to the Catholic male elite which were propelled from the Senior
Seminary at Huambo to the wider society. Belonging to the 'civilized' population and
taught as 'Portuguese', black priests were nonetheless in close contact with 'natives',
rural and urban, and as a 'native clergy' they were conscious of representing them in
the wider church. No matter what their origin they could be sent anywhere in
Angola, a kind of pilgrimage similar to that of civil servants or male nurses, which
helped to develop a 'national' perception of an otherwise fragmented reality.139 At the
same time, restrictions upon working in 'white' parishes were proof of the nonintegration of Catholics as a sole body and of the condoning of colonial racial
segregation. Moreover, blacks were conspicuously absent among Catholic bishops
until the end of colonialism.140 In 1948, Archbishop Alves de Pinho, influenced by a
visit to Rome in 1947, sent the first two black seminarians from Angola to the
When the CIEAC (Conselho das Igrejas Evangélicas de Angola Central) constitution
was adopted in 1956 at Ndondi, the former Umbundu Church Council and Mission Council
ceased to exist. The formula 'Council of Evangelical Churches in Central Angola' (here
meaning from the coast to the eastern frontier) and the adoption of Portuguese as its 'official
language' marked the end of a pan-Umbundu church. See Henderson, The Church, 195-99.
The obvious reference is 'administrative pilgrimage' in Benedict Anderson, Imagined
Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London, 1993), 47-66.
Cf. photos of the Angolan episcopate in 1972 and 1977 in Gabriel, Angola, 554-5 and
560-1. Racial distinction operated also at subconscious level: Spiritan annual reports for our
period always referred to white priests by name while black priests were simply 'native
priests', usually unnamed. For a Portuguese Spiritan history of the 'native clergy', see A.
Brásio, 'A promoção sacerdotal do Africano', Portugal em África, XIX (1962), 12-22.
Gregorian University in Rome, and in the next year he convinced the GovernorGeneral to subsidize their studies there.141
In contradiction of church propaganda, newly ordained black priests were
unwelcome in 'white' parishes except for the grandeur of church ceremonies. Yet,
even an emphatic pro-Portuguese publication occasionally sent a different message:
an article reproduced from the review of the Luanda-based Liga Nacional Africana
praised 'Dom José Kiwanuka, black Bishop of Uganda'.142 A later issue devoted an
entire page to 'a Catholic University for Blacks in America' where 'many blacks show
an intellectual aptitude superior to the whites' average level' confirming 'the church
principles of the equality of all men'. Thousands of black American doctors, writers,
lawyers, nurses and musicians, the article continued, were living proof of 'the
evolution' of slave-descended blacks (an implicit contrast with 'Portuguese
In a colony with no university and very few high schools, and where European
settlers themselves had a high rate of illiteracy, successful Senior Seminary students
were meant to be part of the intellectual elite at large and not only its African
segment.144 An education based on European languages and classical studies,
stronger in rhetoric and the humanities at large, favoured ex-seminarians in whitecollar jobs. Despite 'portugalization' being promoted in all Catholic institutions and
Nascimento, Minhas Origens, 89-91. Returning home after successfully completing their
higher education, both priests were persecuted by the Salazar's regime: Alexandre do
Nascimento was detained and forced to live in Portugal between 1961 and 1971, together
with several other Angolan priests. Just before independence he was made bishop and
became the first Angolan cardinal in 1983. Joaquim Pinto de Andrade went to prison in June
1960, was sent to Portugal and spent the next decade going in and out of prison. While in
prison, he was chosen as president of honour of the MPLA by its exiled leadership. He
eventually became a layman and was involved in post-independence politics.
Traço, September 1944, 4.
Traço, December 1944, 8.
They were taught in Portuguese, being allowed to speak vernacular languages only in
their leisure time, in certain days, 'in order not to forget them'. Seminário Maior de Cristo
Rei de Nova Lisboa (1948), ACSSP-Lisbon. This policy did hindered the development of a
cultivated Umbundu, as existing among Protestant elites, but it also facilitated further access
to white-collar jobs.
through several publications, Spiritans were not a Portuguese enterprise and their
students were aware of 'assimilating' a wider Latin European culture rather than a
narrow Portuguese one.145
Spiritans' investment in teaching an intellectual elite, the willingness of many
to absorb that education and social recognition for the results can be illustrated by the
story of Tiago Benedito Samutaca who died young in 1941 and got an almost
hagiographic article in Voz do Planalto praising his exceptional qualities of
intelligence and character, as well as the 'outstanding formation' he got from
'dedicated teachers' in the Seminary. Tiago, a relative of a chief involved in the 1902
war, had been taken at six years old from his village to the Mission of Kwando where
he attended school and worked in the fields and in the typography and binding
workshop. Soon he stood above his schoolmates and was sent to the Galangue
seminary in 1927, got his first habit in 1933 and entered the Philosophy course in the
Ganda seminary. He went back to Galangue to teach mathematics before beginning
his theological studies at the Caála seminary where he was a 'frequent and diligent
reader of Saint Thomas de Aquino' and wrote a few texts for a Spiritan review in
Portugal. He was about to become a priest when a serious illness killed him after
three years at the Luanda hospital.146
If the intellectual education provided by seminaries was worthy of praise,
methods of enforcing discipline were often brutal and could be similar to the colonial
administration practices, adding a racial dimension to the old problem of corporal
punishment well known in European schools and in missions elsewhere.147
See Nascimento, Minhas Origens, 56, 58, 75, passim. Both Bishop Junqueira and
Archbishop Pinho, although Portuguese, had been educated in different European countries.
See Manuel Nunes Gabriel, D. Moisés Alves de Pinho e os Bispos de Congo e Angola
(Portalegre, 1980). For Junqueira, also Costa, Cem Anos, 222-3.
Voz, 26 June 1943, 6.
See Koren, Spiritans, 481. In Huambo, missionaries were divided about discipline
enforcement through corporal punition. 'Rapports quinquennaux 1950-1955', ACSSp
Discipline was something African families and children would expect from any
initiation which demanded seclusion from society, but some aspects could be
physically and psychologically too difficult to cope with. Obedience was paramount
and submission of body, mind and soul was considered indispensable for the new
Christian man to come out and the future priest to enter the church hierarchy: strict
timetable, hygiene prescriptions (including cold baths in chilly early mornings),
physical work, daily devotions, corporal punishments, saints presented as role
models, avoidance of women, demonising of other faiths, were all part of the
process. Repressive education and emphasis on obedience to those in power made it
harder to individuals to contest or subvert the established order, religious or
Those who succeeded shared a sense of pride, minimising the harsh moments
to praise the advantages of an education which made them a small but recognizable
elite. As an otherwise disapproving Angolan Catholic explained, they thought it was
'a reasonable price' for the benefits of a secondary school education and 'cultural
privileges such as theatre, movies, and musical programmes in which students were
both participants and spectators, an athletic program, trips around Angola and the
camaraderie with fellow students.'149 As this and other testimonies highlight, from
their experience emerged an Angolan network of priests and ex-seminarians whose
influence deserves further research.
Judging from Bishop Junqueira's reports, the greatest problems happened after
young priests left the protected ambiance of the seminary, ill-prepared for
'temptation' in a social and cultural environment challenging celibacy and tolerant
Research on (or memoirs from) the Angolans' experience in seminaries and boarding
schools are still lacking. Cardinal Nascimento's memoirs are obviously limited by his
present function. For an earlier period and a different Angolan region, see the failed Spiritan
experience at Soyo: Jelmer Vos, 'Child slaves and freemen at the Spiritan Mission in Soyo,
1880-1885', Journal of Family History, 1 (2010), 71–90.
Henderson, The Church, 156 and 182-3, based on unpublished manuscript of an Angolan
Catholic, António Kambala.
towards alcohol abuse.150 In 1950, there were fifteen 'native priests of black or
mixed-race' in the Nova Lisboa Diocese and the annual report insisted that no
distinction was made between them and the white clergy: they shared the same table
(an egalitarian practice questioned by some) and received monthly financial help.
They were secular priests but, except for two in charge of new missions, lived in
Spiritan communities or in seminaries as teachers.151 In 1955, twelve new names
were among the 'Portuguese priests of the secular African clergy' (note the language
shift) who had four missions 'entirely entrusted' to them. This masked racial
segregation in the church: despite 'no distinction being made between white and
black priests', Bishop Junqueira recognized that he kept black priests away from
parishes because Europeans refused 'to receive their ministry'. Junqueira's rationale
for having 'the church for the Europeans and the church for the natives' ignored the
whites' dispersion and stated that 'Europeans live together and the natives live in
neighbourhoods (bairros) in the towns' outskirts', adding that the natives' poor
knowledge of Portuguese was another reason for separation.152 In 1960, the Bishop
insisted 'no distinction' existed and the black clergy worked at missions and
noviciates and taught at schools and seminaries, except that Europeans 'did not
accept easily the ministry of native priests' and only 'out of absolute necessity' had he
put a mestiço at the head of 'a parish of whites'.153
Although priests are the dominant elite in the Catholic church, something must
be said about female orders. Women whose social role and spiritual obligations
would not allow them to bear children were exceptional but not unheard-of in
Umbundu culture. Some female title-holders at the important olosoma courts, being
'Rapport 1950-1955' and 'Rapport 1955-1960'. But these problems, as some missionaries
also noted, were not specific to the 'native clergy' or the African seminarians.
Bishop Junqueira, July 1950. 'Rapports 1945-1950'.
Bishop Junqueira, April 1955. 'Rapports 1950-1955'.
Bishop Junqueira, 'Rapport 1960', 29-30. ACSSp II. 3L1.30 b2. Note that by the late
nineteenth century black and mixed-race priests were working normally among white
settlers in Luanda and elsewhere. See Samuels, Education, 92.
'spirit possessed', were not supposed to bear children.154 After the initial period of
Christianization when ex-slaves and 'outcast' girls were the obvious novices, Catholic
families began to accept such exceptional destiny for their daughters. The loss of
progeny was compensated by the gain of spiritual power and some advantages from
their integration in a religious organization seen as powerful.155 By 1940, obstacles to
'Africanization' were less due to difficulty in getting novices than to racial prejudice,
even if some female orders showed a better record than others. In 1950, the 47
'native sisters' all belonged to the Saint-Joseph of Cluny order, which on the eve of
Angola's independence had 72 'African sisters' (note the language shift) in a total of
173. However, black sisters populated the lower ranks (Irmãzinhas and Irmãs) and
were rare at middle and high positions (Madres).156
In his synthesis of Christianity in Africa, Gray stressed that 'missionaries and
the educated elite did not constitute the major component of Christianity in Africa'
and the elite were 'preoccupied with an essentially alien mode of living, organisation,
standards, discipline and thought'.157 Certainly the mass of Christians is not
represented by their elites' aspirations and behaviour, but in some cases (like
Huambo) the 'alien mode of living' became embedded in the lives of much larger
groups. Moreover, contrast between elites and their fellow Christians should not be
exaggerated in those days, at least in areas where African pastors, catechists, priests,
teachers and seminarians were still far from sharing the social status of their
Such as Siya (possessed by Kandundu), Kwanza (possessed by the hunting spirit, Huvi)
and Cipuku Covita (possessed by Cipuku). In Mbalundu, according to Hastings, the Inakulu
(the queen) 'is made sterile as soon as she is selected'. Hastings, Ovimbundu, 67-68, 51. Siya
is usually referred to as the second wife (after Inakulu). Benedito Kalundungu, a respected
herbalist from Mbalundu, claimed she was chosen and offered by the people to the king: 'Rei
Cingi I do Ombalundu, herói anónimo da resistência angolana contra a ocupação colonial', I
Simpósio Sobre Cultura Nacional (Luanda 1984) (typewritten).
In mid-1930s, the Saint Joseph of Cluny order had 47 Europeans and 17 'native
aggregated sisters working in auxiliary services and being trained locally'. Other female
orders were entirely European. Cunha, Missões, 19-20.
Respectively 'Little Sisters', 'Sisters' and 'Mothers'. My personal observation in the 1960s.
For the numbers: 'Rapports 1945-1950'. See also Gabriel, Angola, 382-3 and 452.
Gray 'Christianity', 190.
colonisers and where economic growth had not yet created sharp rural-urban
Faith, social control and cultural change.
The importance of Christianization for broader social and cultural change in colonial
Africa has become a major subject in anthropology and history and it has also been
acknowledged for Angola.158 Here, however, urban and peri-urban areas have been
overlooked and conclusions about 'the Ovimbundu' tended to ignore the diversity of
Ovimbundu responses to missionary projects.159 Christian missions certainly helped
the colonial state to maintain control over the colonized, but between those who
consider Christianization just another face of colonialism and those who exclude it
from any colonial sin, there is room for more nuanced and evidence-based
approaches.160 Discipline and respect for political authorities were promoted, good
Christians being expected to be also good subjects of the state. Obedience to
ecclesiastical authorities was the rule among both Catholic and Protestant who were
supposed to follow their leaders' guidance and, although priests' authority was
usually greater, Protestant missionaries and pastors were not less important among
their faithful.161 Circumstances varied greatly but, in societies marked by racial
stratification, white missionaries, priests and bishops could not avoid being
associated with colonial rule, as Reverend Henderson noted:
See, generally, Peel, Religious Encounter; Richard Gray, Black Christians and White
Missionaries (New Haven, 1990) and 'Christianity'; Adrian Hastings, Africa Christianity:
An Essay in Interpretation, (London and Dublin, 1976). For a much earlier period, Jean
Comaroff and John Comaroff, Of Revelation and Revolution: Christianity, Colonialism and
Consciousness in South Africa (Chicago, 1991) and Of Revelation and Revolution. 2: The
Dialectics of Modernity on a South African Frontier (Chicago and London, 1997).
As Péclard points out, criticising Heywood who, he argues, 'postulates without either
questioning or making explicit the existence of an Umbundu identity forged above all inside
Protestant missions' assuming that that is 'the' Ovimbundu identity. Péclard, État colonial,
245-51 (my translation).
See for instance the editor's 'Introduction' in Norman Etherington (ed.), Missions and
Empire (Oxford, 2005), 1-18.
Henderson, The Church, 106, on differences in 'ordination' in both churches.
The mission station was not only the centre of a community that created
ecclesiastical ties; it was the summit of a hierarchy. In the colonial situation the
white man had power and authority. He lived and operated from the mission
station. The missionary might enjoy using this power, or he might have had a
distinct distaste for his position; however, it did not depend primarily upon his
taste. In the colonial situation he was an authority.162
As each mission controlled a network of chapel-schools, each time a new
mission was erected a certain number of Christian villages were put under its control,
redefining the ecclesiastical map and the lives of people who would have new routes
and distances between them and the mission they belonged to. Some missions
developed into great centres of production, teaching and training, fostering
agriculture and technical innovation around them, but even smaller ones changed the
landscape with their buildings and fields and erected marks of victory over
'heathenism', as colonial authorities erected theirs over the territory of defeated
olosoma.163 As Martin writes of colonial Congo-Brazzaville:
Like colonial administrators and ethnographers, missionaries engaged in a
reorientation of space, developing their own maps with boundaries of vicariates
and symbols for principal Catholic centres. … Around mission property
processions paused at statues, crosses, and cemeteries that marked contours of
piety and adoration. … In the surrounding countryside, chapels, schools, and
crosses contested older social and ritual markers …164
In Huambo, several urban and peri-urban neighbourhoods were named or
rechristened after Catholic saints, something unthinkable when the city was born but
Ibid, 204. Henderson was a Congregational missionary in central Angola between 1948
and 1969.
By the mid-1940s Spiritans' initial great central missions with fields and workshops gave
way to smaller missions, nearer their Christian flock which were less enthusiastic about
walking dozens of kilometres to see the priest and receive sacraments. 'Rapport 1946-1947'.
In 1950, Estermann insisted that multiplication of missionary stations was the best option to
avoid a superficial evangelization: 'Rapport de la Visite', 6-7. ACSSp, 3L1.28b3, 2/.
Martin, Catholic Women, 56. The French state was never so sympathetic to the Catholic
Church and Congo was not a settlers' colony, but similarities are evident nonetheless. See
also Terence Ranger on Anglican and Catholic 'new mystical geographies' in Zimbabwe:
'Taking hold of the land: Holy places and pilgrimages in twentieth-century Zimbabwe', Past
& Present, 117 (1987), 158-94.
widely accepted even before the Diocese was created.165 Catholic privileges after the
Concordat came with more administrative control, including demands of regular
information on catechists and other mission workers which in practice put
missionaries in the dubious position of 'informers' for the colonial administration.
After 1942, each Diocese bishop was responsible for the identification cards
mandatory for newly appointed catechists (former cards issued by the administration
remained valid). A list was sent by each mission Superior to the Bishop and the local
administration, with the catechists' names, place of teaching and ability to speak
Portuguese, detailing if they taught only catecheses or also rudimentary education.166
The Diocese kept a registry of all issued identity documents and had to inform the
administrative authority about all Catholic catechists approved by ecclesiastical
authorities and all mission students and staff. Annual information was required on
boarding pupils, seminarians and daily workers at workshops and in agriculture,
communicating changes 'immediately and with total loyalty' - an expression
indicating suspicion that tax and labour evaders occasionally got protection from
Urbanization of 'natives' was seen more as a problem than a sign of progress by
both civil and ecclesiastic authorities. Péclard noted that Protestant missionaries did
not want all 'modern' aspects of their own civilization transposed to the African
milieu, advocating instead a vision of rural life already ruined by industrialization
A 1953 map signaled 'native' bairros on the outskirts named Fátima and Saints
Bartolomeu, Tereza, Luís, João, Tarcísio and Estêvão. Some, like São João and Fátima,
were repeated in main urban bairros, which also included São Pedro and Santo António.
Most of these names are still there. See Junta das Missões Geográficas e de Investigações do
Ultramar, 'Levantamento Aerofotogramétrico', Huambo (1953).
Ensino rudimentar was the rudimentary education 'natives' should pass before entering
primary (elementar) level or crafts' schools. The 1941 statute entirely entrusted it to
Catholic missions and, in Angola, its content and aims were fully defined by Portaria 7,079
(6 February 1950). See Portugal em África (1953), 38. In 1956, it was renamed Ensino de
Adaptação without significant changes. See Henderson, The Church, 143-5.
Bishop's Circular 11/E/1942 (2 June 1942), in Boletim Eclesiástico, (1942), 65. Also in
Spiritana, V, 825-6.
and urbanization in Europe and North America.168 Many Catholic missionaries
would subscribe to those ideas and saw urbanization as the epitome of perversion of
'good social values' and 'the simplicity of spirit' of rural people, identifying towns as
places of sin and alienation. But instead of the 'stay away' Congregationalists' policy,
Spiritans decided to go and fight for the urban souls, creating the Kanye mission.169
Urbanization concerns prompted the Diocese to create an 'Educative and
Instructive League of Mission Pupils' (Liga Educativa e Instrutiva dos Alunos das
Missões) aimed at keeping a 'close relation' with those who 'go and earn their living
in great industrial centres'.170 By their motto Deus e Pátria ('God and Fatherland')
they meant 'to contribute to the expansion of Christ's kingdom and Portuguese
sovereignty'. Its monthly review Traço de União ('hyphen'), launched in 1944,
intended to keep 'African Catholic and catechumens' connected with their church
guidance.171 From 1950 there was also a 'Monthly Review' of the Diocese's Catholic
Missions, mostly about religious issues, with articles in Portuguese and summaries in
After 1945, another enemy was added to paganism and Protestantism:
communism. Fear of communist 'contamination' of black urban workers and urban
poor in the colonies was discussed in 1948 at a great Spiritan meeting in Chevilly
(France), influenced by recent strikes in Senegal and Congo-Brazzaville.
Recommendations included active anti-communist ideological education and
Péclard, État colonial, 150-3 and passim.
As late as 1967, Henderson, then the head of Evangelical Alliance of Angola, was still
failing to convince his fellow missionaries that main action was now in the urban milieu, not
at villages. Henderson, The Church, 309.
'Rapports annuels 1941-1948'. ACSSp, 3L1.20a /a2.
Traço, (June 1944), 1. Seventy numbers were published until March 1951. Matters
ranged from health and hygiene advice to glorification of Portuguese history, catechists'
activities and the odd reference to black people in other countries. 'Presse – journaux (19461960)', 2/. ACSSp 3L1.20b5. Loose numbers also in the Biblioteca Nacional (Lisbon).
'Presse – journaux (1946-1960)'.
organization of missionary-led workers' unions, the latter obviously impossible under
the Portuguese political regime.173
Catholics could exercise rights and obligations and develop self-confidence in
their own organizations but these existed separately for parishes and missions, that is,
for 'civilized' and 'natives'. Catechists and former mission pupils had their own
organizations and 'native' youth had the Catholic Scouts, but the Catholic Action
existed only for the European youth. Devotional groups were by far stronger among
'natives', namely 'Apostleship of Prayer', 'Sons and Daughters of Mary', 'Legion of
Mary', 'Association of Christian Mothers' and 'Works of Saint Filomena'.174
The colour bar inside Christian churches reflected but also legitimized the
colour bar in society at large, given the importance of Catholicism for the
Portuguese. A shared religion did not mean racial integration and, although status,
class and culture prejudices were as common as racial prejudice, in racially ordered
societies every right or privilege (or the lack of it) was seen as racially determined.
Unofficial racial segregation in the Catholic Church was evident in the distribution of
black and white people attending religious ceremonies in parish churches. Formal
segregation did not exist in seminaries and priests' residences where all shared
spaces, meals and religious functions but, as noted before, not everyone was happy
with that. Among the Protestants, the question of racial inequality seemed also
evident to Angolans and far from evident to missionaries.175
Father Avantino de Sousa, 'O comunismo entre os pretos de Angola', Portugal em
África, VI (1949), 169-80.
'Rapport 1945-1950'. 'Rapport 1955-1960', 39.
Coming from a country of stricter racial segregation, American missionaries probably
saw their experience in Angola as a non-segregated one. Angolan pastors and evangelists,
however, saw racial discrimination in small gestures of 'distance', like never being invited to
share meals with missionaries, while non-Congregational white people often were. The
existing colour bar in the Congregational church at home led American 'Coloured
Congregational churches' to support a specific mission, with 'black' staff, Galangue. See
Henderson, The Church, 79-80; L. Henderson, Galangue: The Unique Story of a Mission
Station in Angola Proposed, Supported and Staffed by Black Americans (New York, 1986).
Adaptation to an urban environment is not 'a simple reactive adjustment' with
people just responding to social forces 'beyond their control' but a process where they
seek ways to give sense and order to their new situation, as Epstein and others long
ago demonstrated. In the new environment, occupation had become 'a key criterion
in an emerging system of social ranking defined in terms of approximation to 'the
European way of life''.176 In Huambo, familiarity with European food, domestic
equipment, workshop tools, bureaucracy or child raising were not worthless. People
trained in Christian missions were seen as more familiar with European culture and
given preference in jobs involving proximity to Europeans, from administrative
auxiliaries to domestic servants.177 In town, the expansion of Catholic primary
schools and workshops produced a pool of male and female workers easily absorbed
by the labour market. For all of them, despite status differences, working with
Europeans resulted in greater adaptation, appropriation or simple imitation of habits,
fashions and social aspirations. Catholics and Christians at large were at the forefront
of cultural change no matter how firmly missionaries believed that 'rural' ways were
safer for their spiritual life (as translated in their worries about 'modesty', 'respect for
hierarchies', 'obedience to the catechist' etc.).
Urban-related 'family problems' were plenty, and catechists were expected to
be vigilant about marriage and the engagement period, in order to keep the faithful
away from 'pagan' or 'immoral' practices. There is evidence that old habits persisted,
despite the growing control of the Church. An article addressed to the catechists in a
1947 Catholic publication is revealing: apart from the importance of forbidding 'the
Cf. Epstein discussing Ndola (Zambia) in the 1950s. A.L. Epstein, Urbanization and
Kinship: The Domestic Domain on the Copperbelt of Zambia 1950-1956, (London 1981), 5,
17. His chapter 'Ndola: The growth of a town' provided an interesting comparison with
Huambo despite its main activity being mining and not trading. See also: J.C. Mitchell and
A.L. Epstein, 'Occupational prestige and social status among urban Africans in Northern
Rhodesia', Africa, 1 (1959), 22–39.
Derogatory adjectives like matumbo were used as opposite of esperto (clever), the latter
meaning someone who had learned enough of the European ways to deal more successful
with job demands. Many employers would ask for references from the missionaries.
engaged couple' from 'taking certain liberties', one big issue was the 'pagan custom' of
the bride working one or two years before the marriage in the fields of the future
husband. It was also stressed that a young man should not be allowed to marry before
building his house, since some young women refused to go and live with their
husbands because they had no house and so there was no proper uvala (nuptial
celebration).178 The catechist should also alert the missionaries in case the bridegroom
had built a house far from a Christian neighbourhood, a clear sign of trying to escape
community control.179
Family and gender relations were undoubtedly fields of change and negotiation
for townspeople and Christianization played a decisive role, through its imposition of
monogamy, reinforcement of the husband/father rights to the detriment of the
wife/mother's brothers, and training of women according to European patterns.180 As
women were much less involved in labour migration, many economic activities
rested on their shoulders, as well as children's socialization. Their role in promoting
or resisting changes brought by colonial rule and Christianity is one area which
requires further research.
For our period, statistical data show a balanced sex ratio among blacks
(compared to whites) in Huambo, but in the 'white' town areas the presence of black
women was far less visible since even street vendors and domestic servants in
European households were usually male until the 1950s. Most women came to
Huambo following their male relatives or husbands and went on working in full or
part-time in agriculture around the town, as they did back home. However, here the
As part of complex wedding celebrations, the bride should cook her first meal in her new
house. See Hastings, Ovimbundu, 97-114; Raul Kavita Evambi, 'The marriage customs of
the Ovimbundu', Africa, 3 (1938), 342-8; McCulloch, The Ovimbundu, 20-24, 33, 45;
Francisco Valente, A Problemática do Matrimónio Tribal (Lisbon 1985).
'Aos nossos catequistas' ('To our catechists'), Traço, January 1947, 3-4, about factors
damaging a good Christian marriage.
Cf. Congregational policy: Péclard, État Colonial, 191-5; Heywood, 'Ovimbundu
kinship safety net was absent or geographically too stretched to be of help in
everyday life.
Daily domestic chores were not so different from the village: basic Europeanstyle furniture (table, chairs, bed) was not rare among townspeople but electricity,
water and sanitation were the exception, and cooking fuel was firewood or charcoal.
However, many familiar spaces where women enjoyed camaraderie and dealt with
family questions were lost once they left their villages: collective activities like
pounding the grain on the rocks, or bathing and washing in the river. In their new
situation, neighbourhood partially replaced kinship and religious affiliation was often
their entry to a community.181 From the catechetical school to the mission, especially
after Kanye's foundation made this more accessible, a friendly environment was
provided for Catholics, attracting many who were deprived of their former spaces of
conviviality. Probably the fact that men spent more time drinking and socializing
with workmates made church gatherings less important to them.
The kind of social engineering practiced by Christian missions, especially
choosing suitable husbands and wives, became more difficult in town where
occasions for contact were plenty, the numerous Christians harder to control and
religious mixed marriages not rare.182 Protestant and Catholic missionaries alike
fought everything considered to be a threat to good Christian households, from
initiation ceremonies to traditional dancing, 'immodest' dress or good-luck charms.
Polygamy and 'free unions' were identified as major enemies of Christian souls, but
in urban and peri-urban areas temporary unions were increasing by the late 1940s:
In the 1950s, Edwards observed how the high rate of preferential marriages (mostly
between cross-cousins) resulted in cohesion of the neighbourhood community/ies through
complex ties of affinity and subsequently kinship within a limited area. Edwards,
Ovimbundu, 158.
In missions at large, Spiritans had a policy of intervention: Fathers and Sisters tried to
control the timing for marriage and the choice of partner, 'allocating' Christian girls to
Christian men, deciding how long they stayed in boarding schools, delaying marriages until
'conditions' were fulfilled and even paying dowries on behalf of 'their' young men (in
practice assuming the position of headmen and elders). Koren, Spiritans, 483-4 and passim.
men often left families at home and formed new ones, becoming polygamous; young
males engaged in free unions (in Huambo women were not scarce) before going back
to marry a woman their relatives considered appropriate; the prolonged absence of
husbands led women to engage in new relationships. Youth were escaping control
from elders and choosing 'unsuitable' partners, but decay of traditional cross-cousin
preferential marriage was also explained by new lifestyles. As rural relatives were
not familiar with them, parents welcomed marriage with sons and daughters of
friends, schoolmates, workmates and neighbours. In fact this strategy overlapped the
emergence of new social strata (cutting across Catholic-Protestant divisions) and in
time restored the importance of kinship ties.183
The Portuguese state considered polygamy an acceptable 'native' custom and
intervened only by collecting additional taxes from polygamous men. In 1948,
among much controversy, Catholic lobbying finally got anti-polygamy legislation
(without retroactive effects): polygamous men would be excluded from state
employment and from settling in urban and peri-urban areas.184 The law accepted
marriage defined by the traditional payment made to women's male relatives and
forbade the keeping at home of sexual partners other than the spouse or existing
spouses. Legislators explained that 'natives' and 'non-natives' were living in close
proximity and with greater interdependency in urban centres, an evolution which
made the presence of polygamy 'morally wrong'. It was expected that 'propaganda
and zeal of missionaries, civil servants and white settlers' would in time allow the
law to be extended to 'all peoples of Angola'.185
Interviews with Raul David, Luanda, 27 October 1994; Alberto Sehululu, Luanda, 21
March 2001; also Capumba, Luanda, 20 January 2006, and Santos, Luanda, 17 May 2010.
For a defence of Portuguese legislation, see Rego, Lições, 118-25.
Portaria 6,546 (22 December 1948) in Portugal em África, VI (1949), 187-8. Law
breakers faced six months to two years of 'correctional work'. Missionary zeal led the
article's author to call polygamy 'prostitution' and 'the most efficient factor of unabashed
prostitution'. For reactions against the law in Portuguese parliament, see Spiritana, 885-6.
In the 1940s, Huambo became the epicentre of a vast African Catholic network
including catechists and their wives, school elders, mission employees, teachers, exseminarians, seminarians, priests and nuns, amidst a mass of church goers, baptized
or not. That was stimulated by the creation of the Diocese de Nova Lisboa in the
wake of the Concordat and the Missionary Agreement (1940) followed by the
Missionary Statute (1941), giving the Catholic Church clear advantages over its
Protestant rivals. The religious importance of the city was enhanced by a new
seminary and a new mission responding to the fast growing black population.
The economic importance of Huambo's outskirts is relatively well documented
but little is known about cultural life of its 'native' population (and black people at
large) except for Church-related activities. The majority's living standards were
probably not higher than in the rural world already transformed by colonial rule and
missions' influence. However, the concentration of people and events, the scale of
phenomena and the quicker expansion of anything new coming out, were undeniably
characteristics of the urban experience. The Kanye Mission was not like any rural
mission and Christians in town had to live their faith according to different realities.
Christian faith came with a new set of beliefs, rites of passage, rules and
taboos, as well as new values and mechanisms of social control. The perception of
believing in a superior spiritual power was matched by that of partially appropriating
the dominant culture of 'the whites' (not necessarily the Portuguese), as expressed in
new names, dress styles, house furniture, eating habits, etc., all working as signs of
distinction. Social mobility and cultural change reshaped identities both at individual
and collective level. Catholic, Congregationalists, Baptists and Adventists liked to
emphasize their differences but they all believed in their cultural superiority over
Cf. Martin Parr 'Marriage Ordinances for Africans', Africa, 17, 1 (Jan. 1947), 1-7, criticizing
Christian missions' influence in state laws and ordinances in the British colonies.
non-Christians and would willingly emulate at least some aspects of what was
considered an urban/modern/civilized way of life. This African Christian culture,
more or less 'westernized', more or less 'Portugalized', also implied, against what
most missionaries and settlers alike would wish, new expectations and individual
ambitions that could scarcely be fulfilled under colonial rule.
Christianity changed the cultural and social landscape of central Angola and
fostered new elites who would sooner or later defy colonial rule. The Catholic
Church, protected by the colonial state, promoted submission to an alien political
power but also facilitated African Catholics' upward mobility - and could not decide
how they would use it. The extent to which Catholics' aspirations and political views
were different from their Protestant relatives and fellow countrymen is open to
discussion. As Péclard has noted for Congregationalists, Ovimbundu responses to the
missionary project were shaped by many other factors. This was probably even truer
for the Catholic Ovimbundu, who did not develop the same degree of social cohesion
created by a 'minority syndrome' and for all those who, in bigger towns, could elude
control over their economic options and social behaviour.
The Catholic paradox can be summarized as follows: while committed to
produce compliant Portuguese subjects, the Church was creating a black Angolan
elite able to challenge Portuguese rule - as many of them eventually did. Like its
Protestant counterparts, the Catholic Church also provided the means by which men
and women got a sense of pride, achievement and self-confidence they could hardly
get elsewhere in a colonial situation. Mission activities, catechetical schools,
devotion and prayer groups all allowed people to develop skills and personal contacts
which helped to improve their lives. They were transformed by the mission but they
in turn transformed the mission into a space of their own, where they could stay 'in
the front' in both physical and psychological terms. For our period of study, the main
factor of cultural reconfiguration was Christianization and in Huambo the Catholic
Church had an unparalleled influence in that field.
In the 1950s, Huambo fully developed its main urban features: a centre of
administrative power ruling over the countryside and a constellation of smaller
towns; an economic centre based on agriculture and trade, served by several roads
and the Benguela Railway; and a major religious centre in a network of Catholic
institutions. But it was still far from being, as it became by the end of colonial rule in
1975, Angola's second largest city and second industrial pole after the capital,
Luanda. That period, however, is beyond the scope of this study, for the reasons
explained in the Introduction. This chapter examines how Huambo was changing
after the Second World War, growing well beyond its successive urban plans,
stretching along the railway and the main roads and blurring its town limits. The
once out-of-town Kanye Mission was by 1960 nearer to downtown than some new
areas formally integrated in the city due to the high number of white dwellers. But
the city kept its strong rural-urban interface and proletarianization was moderated by
the importance of agriculture and petty trade in most workers' households.
Huambo was a magnet for many people, due to job opportunities and the
possibility of escaping control from both state agents and village elders in the
countryside. The Posto Sede, including the city, its suburbs and the immediate
surrounding areas from where people walked or cycled daily to workplaces, grew
from about 39,000 inhabitants in 1950 (28,296 in defined urban areas) to 70,629 in
1960 (38,745 urbanites), impressive figures by Angolan standards. The
overwhelming majority were blacks but the steady influx of white immigrants
reinforced the 'European' characteristics of the city centre, its main quarters and
leisure facilities, also creating new demands on colonial 'law and order'.
Portuguese neutrality in the Second World War spared the colonies from the
direct effects of the conflict. The Salazar regime survived and, thanks greatly to the
strategic north-Atlantic Azores Islands, Portugal joined NATO and, in 1955, the
United Nations. Portugal's authoritarian rulers, however, were aware of emerging
anti-colonial pressures and understood that economic control would be lost if the
colonies gained political independence, so they rejected any move towards
decolonization. Instead, helped by the post-war coffee boom, they attracted
investments and stimulated Portuguese emigration to Angola. Politicians and
scholars resurrected the 'integration' discourse: empire and colonies became 'overseas
provinces' again. However, the Native Statute was not removed, so citizenship rights
were still denied to the overwhelming majority, while racial tensions in Angola were
aggravated by the steady influx of Portuguese settlers.
In the 1950s, the gap between aspirations and prospects was widening among
the colonized. This chapter examines, on one hand, the contradictions of Portuguese
colonial politics and, on the other hand, the increasing socio-economic diversity and
stratification among 'natives' in Huambo. Strong resentment also derived from the
particular conditions of 'justice' under colonial rule, a subject dealt with in a section
on law and order. Escaping from the 'native' condition by acquiring Portuguese
citizenship was one strategy to cope with the situation, but only a few succeeded.
Resisting the winds of change
The process of urbanization and social change in Huambo must be located in the
wider context of Angolan history after 1945. Neutrality could not avoid the
contradictory economic consequences of the war for Portugal: the colonial pact
whereby the colonies provided tropical foodstuffs and raw materials for metropolitan
industries was reinforced, but world difficulties stimulated economic autonomy and
new foreign partners like the United States.1 Quotas and prices of Angolan goods
benefited the metropolitan economy, adding to the industrial regulation
(condicionamento industrial) that had protected Portuguese metropolitan products
since 1936. This meant that industries processing raw materials were banned in the
colonies if similar metropolitan industries had not achieved their full capacity. New
industries needed special authorization from the Overseas Ministry if they imported
raw materials or from the Governor General if they used local ones. The relations
between the Angolan economy and the world market were mediated by Portugal:
foreign exchange obtained through Angola exports was controlled by the Banco de
Portugal and sent directly to Lisbon.2
However, diversification of Angolan suppliers and clients was inevitable
because Portugal could neither absorb the entire production nor supply many
industrial products, like coal, oil, motorcars and heavy machinery for railways,
agriculture and mining.3 Until the 1960s, Angola’s exports were based on diamonds,
fishing and agriculture (maize, coffee, cotton, palm oil, sisal and cassava). Despite
some projects of intensive agriculture and ranching, production came mostly from
African peasant agriculture, while European settlers or corporations controlled
commerce and transportation.4 But after 1945, sisal production and especially the
coffee boom caused a rush on land concessions.5 Coffee exports surpassed those of
W. G. Clarence-Smith, 'The impact of the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War
on Portuguese and Spanish Africa', JAH, 26 (1985), 309-12.
See Eduardo Sousa Ferreira, 'A lógica da consolidação da economia de mercado em
Angola, 1930-1974', Análise Social, 1 (1985), 87-8.
In 1945, Portugal supplied 65 percent of Angola's imports and 43 percent of its exports. By
the late 1950s, due to coffee, the USA received 27.32 percent (in value) of Angola's exports,
followed by Portugal (18.62 percent), UK (13.25 percent), Holland (11.97 percent) and
Germany (8.29 percent). Actividade Económica de Angola, 50 (1958), 119. Ferreira, A
lógica, 91-92. For more on Portuguese-Angolan economic relations: Clarence-Smith, Third
Portuguese Empire, 146-191; Manuel Ennes Ferreira, Angola-Portugal: do Espaço
Económico Português às Relações Pós-Coloniais, (Lisbon 1990).
Horácio Rebelo, Angola na África deste Tempo, (Lisbon 1961), 63. Actividade Económica,
111, 117-8.
Actividade Económica, 128-132. Rebelo, Angola, 76.
maize and diamonds in 1942 and 1946 respectively, representing almost 50 percent
of Angola's exports in the late 1950s.6 From 1955, promising oil production and the
opening of a refinery in 1958 were good news for Angola, the Belgian concessionary
Purfina and the American Gulf Oil Company. But until 1960 oil had a small impact
on the Angolan economy and it was only in 1973 that its export value surpassed that
of coffee.7
Due to imperial regulations, very few non-extractive industries existed: fish
curing, fishmeal, sugar, alcohol, soap, pasta and biscuits, furniture, tanning, tiles and
bricks, paints and varnishes, low-technology sawmills and flour mills. During the
1950s, world market price oscillations exposed the risks of relying on one or two
products.8 Calls for industrialization made evident the lack of Portuguese capital and
the inadequacy of the existing 'Angola Development Fund', created in the 1930s and
reformulated in the 1940s, finally reinforced with the first state-sponsored National
Development Plan (Plano de Fomento Nacional 1953-1958). A few important public
works began, including hydroelectric plants, and industrial growth tried to satisfy
local demands for cement, bricks, tiles, furniture, leather, sacks, soap, sugar, cooking
oil, beer and more 'native' specific demands for cloths, hoes and machetes.9
In Huambo, consequences were felt in labour recruitment: traditional labour
consumers (mines, sugar plantations, fisheries) were joined after 1945 by sisal
treatment plants and coffee plantations. Increasing activity in the construction sector
and public works, namely bridges and roads, also meant more labour extraction from
villagers. The district was also the main contributor of 'native' tax: despite tax being
Rebelo, Angola, 177.
Ibid, 123-34. Economic evolution, by sector: Walter Marques, Problemas do
Desenvolvimento Económico de Angola, (Luanda 1965), 2 vols.
The price of coffee tonne fell from 37,000 to 14,500 escudos between 1951 and 1961:
Ferreira, A lógica, 93-4.
Rebelo, Angola, 228-32. For industrial legislation, Actividade Económica, 40-107.
higher in Luanda (245 escudos) than in Huambo (210 escudos), the total revenue of
the latter was more than double that of Luanda.10
The six-year Development Plan envisaged a better environment for industrial
investments and responded to international pressure for colonial development
policies. But instead of preparing a transfer of power, economic changes served
Portuguese colonial entrenchment, with better infrastructure and industrial incentives
paving the way for a massive entry of Portuguese settlers. A great share of the
investments went to hydroelectric plants and irrigation schemes aimed to help
settlement schemes (colonatos).11 Diverging from other colonial developmental
policies, the first Development Plan was mute about education and gave no support
to 'native' social improvement. Finally the money allocated for public works was
much less than anticipated and not 'suitable for the progress of the Province'. 12
Angola's economy stagnated for most of the period and trading remained the
main activity of the Portuguese, due to lack of capital, shortage of technicians and
skilled labour, and a domestic market suffering from peoples' low incomes.13 In
conditions of low technological input, economic growth depended on very low
salaries and on 'native' migrant labour, forced or otherwise, to plantations, mines and
fisheries. All of this resulted in the over-exploitation of villagers, which were, at least
in central Angola, the backbone of agriculture for both the domestic and the foreign
In 1959, Huambo district represented 15.62 percent of Angola 'native' tax revenues.
Secretário-Geral do Governador-Geral to Ministro do Ultramar, 23 November 1960, AHU,
On colonatos, see Bender, Angola, 95-131; Soares, Política, 63-71.
Acta do Conselho Legislativo, (Luanda 3 January 1958), in Rebelo, Angola, 246-73.
Rebelo, Angola, 279. About 'Development Plans', also Ferreira, A lógica, 94-5 and
Clarence-Smith, Third Portuguese Empire, 166.
According to the 1950 Census, only 20 percent of 'whites' had post-primary education.
For socio-economic information on Portuguese settlers, see Cláudia Castelo, Passagens.
Guia Industrial de Angola, (Luanda 1960). Statistics in Actividade Económica, 110-45.
Peasants, workers and many others
Industrialization in Huambo was incipient except for the impressive CCFB Central
Workshops, a few flour mills, sawmills, lime-kilns, tanning and the small-scale
production of soap, dairy products, pork sausages, shoes and hats, biscuits and
macaroni, sweets and soft drinks. Although about 300 'industries' were reported in
the district in the late 1950s, most were very small and used little capital, low
technology and few workers.15 The exception was CUCA (Companhia União de
Cervejas de Angola) which inaugurated a large modern beer factory in 1959, in the
presence of the Governor-General and with the Bishop's blessing.16 In 1960 the city
and its Concelho contained much of the region's existing service industry: one third
of the District's traders and vendors and more than 70 percent of its office clerks,
transport and communication employees, directors and high-ranking administrative
The black population in peripheral neighbourhoods included peasants, selfemployed artisans and petty traders but in the 1950s most families had one or more
wage-earners. Many were servants in administration services or cleaners, gardeners,
cooks, washwomen and child carers in settlers' houses. A skilled labour force was in
demand and many black workers had training opportunities, despite competition
from white workers. Bakers and hotel employees, dealing with food, were under
special scrutiny after 1945, supposedly for hygiene reasons.18
For decades domestic servants were male, but women were becoming more
visible, especially young women trained and recommended by the nuns. Colonial
laws tried to 'stabilize' domestic service by imposing on all servants the caderneta
António Coxito Granado, Dicionário Corográfico-Comercial de Angola - Antonito,
(Luanda 1948), 269-71. Planalto, 9 October 1959, 5, and 25 December 1959, 7, 16. Rebelo,
Angola, 229.
Voz, 7 May 1959, 1, 6.
1960 Census, IV, 22-23.
ANA, Códice 4,441. ANA Códice 7,773.
indígena, but that was often circumvented. Complaints about servants often
mentioned laziness, lack of discipline and high turnover rates, usually with racist
comments.19 In fact, the high turnover rates indicate that domestic service was often
an entry-level occupation in town, and also used as a fallback between other jobs.20
By definition, domestic servants lived in close contact with their masters, observing
and learning diverse European ways of living, tending to adopt certain practices and,
at the same time, introducing white settlers to some aspects of their own culture.21
The influence of this relationship on the perception of 'racial' differences and on
cultural changes at large has yet to be studied in Angola.22
Nurses, typographers, teachers, cooks and civil servants enjoyed prestige
among black waged workers, but their true elite in Huambo were CCFB employees
working in workshops, offices and train stations. They were entitled to medical care
and could shop at the company warehouses, although limited by their job category.
Travelling facilities along the line fostered unofficial small business and developed
economic and family networks. Even the thousands of unskilled men performing
heavy tasks for CCFB had comparative advantages in working for an enterprise that
paid them regularly, provided some health care and was powerful enough to keep its
workers away from military and labour conscription. The company also invested in
training 'native' skilled labour, directly or through the Catholic missions. In 1956 its
central workshops in Huambo employed 1,148 people, namely 263 'Europeans' (227
Voz, 17 July 1952, 2; 11 February 1954, 6; 20 October 1949, 6; 3 July 1952, 2; Planalto,
8 November 1959, 4.
Voz, 20 October 1949, 6. Cf. Maputo (Mozambique): Jeanne Marie Penvenne, African
Workers and Colonial Racism. Mozambican Strategies and Struggles in Lourenço Marques,
1877-1962, (London, 1995), 54-61.
This intimacy was criticized by some who wanted more white female servants from
Portugal (orphanage girls were sent in 1950): Voz, 8 June 1950, 8; 25 October 1954, 3; 20
January 1955, 4; 17 February 1955. But until the end of colonial rule white domestic
servants were the exception.
Domestic servants have been referred to as part of the labour force, but have seldom
attracted a full study. One exception is Karen Hansen, Distant Companions: Servants and
Employers in Zambia, 1900-1985 (Ithaca 1989).
skilled workers, 36 office personnel) and 885 'Africans' (177 skilled workers, 41
office personnel, 140 auxiliary apprentices, 527 workers and servants).23 The
numerical supremacy of white skilled labour disappears if we add the 'apprentices'
(aprendizes auxiliaries) who could wait many years for a promotion. Workshop
workers were only part of a wider aspirational group of railwaymen which absorbed
people trained in Christian missions and seminaries.
The kind of sources available do not allow a discussion of class-consciousness
among black railwaymen, but from personal observation and talks with some of
them, much later, it is evident that they perceived themselves as being a privileged
group among other black workers, proud of their 'westernized' or 'civilized' ways of
living, although resenting racial segregation in the company's policy. But it is unclear
how much of that 'elite' attitude was due to their status as a labour aristocracy, or to
their education at the Christian missions and seminaries that had facilitated such jobs
in the first place. And what about solidarity with fellow railwaymen in lower
positions, that is, the majority of the railway workers? More research is needed on
those important questions.24
A number of factors of distinction operated among non-whites at large, but an
individual's social position depended especially on legal status (indígena or
civilizado), kinship and occupation, with education, colour, religion and ethnolinguistic affiliations playing secondary roles.25 Money was important but could not
get 'respect' in itself, and other forms of wealth were still valued, like cattle. Marriage
strategies could put one's descendants in the 'right' direction and extend the family's
safety net: old olosoma lineages melted into new elites through Christian converts,
'CFB - Oficinas Gerais', AHM, Caixa 194, Documento 7. Their European-African
distinction is mute about the native-civilized divide and the significant number of mestiços.
An oral history project on Angolan railwaymen by Emmanuel Esteves, who did a PhD on
the Benguela Railway, was stopped by his sudden death in 2008.
Cf. J.C. Mitchell and A.L. Epstein, 'Occupational prestige and social status among urban
Africans in Northern Rhodesia.' Africa, 29 (1959), 22–39.
job selection and appropriate marriages.26 With so many factors involved it was not
surprising to get different answers about who had higher status among non-white
people in Huambo. Raul David, an ex-seminarian and once a CCFB white-collar
worker, named a few families an educated person should pay a visit to whenever
going to Huambo.27 But black and mixed-race 'civilized' (according to the legal
category) were rather heterogeneous and divided, as the experience of the African
Association of Southern Angola (AASA, Associação Africana do Sul de Angola)
AASA was created in 1949 by mainly CCFB employees, ex-seminarians and
civil servants, for charity, sport and recreation purposes, and children's primary
education.29 From the beginning membership excluded indígenas but explicitly
accepted Blacks who 'by their behaviour and living standards could be considered
assimilados' as well as 'Whites, even Europeans who made Angola their adoptive
motherland', rejecting suggestions that it was an organization for mestiços.30 The real
influence of the AASA, usually openly in favour of the Portuguese regime, is
unknown. Whether compliant with the regime or just impotent, it was almost useless
for left off 'natives' and its potential role as the representative of the small non-white
Current family surnames related both to old Ovimbundu aristocracies and to missioneducated people can be found among Angolan political or intellectual elites. Names such as
Epalanga, Kalei, Kapingala, Mwekalia, Lukamba or Cilala were once titles of court
Interview with Raul David, Luanda, 9 October 1994. He mentioned the Lomba, Machado,
Napoleão, Canhanga and other predominantly black families, but also Ferreira, 'a white
from Angola married with a pure black woman, Dona Sofia, living in Fatima'. Sofia's
brothers included an electrician, a typographer and a white collar CFB worker.
See David's speech at the General Assembly in Voz 13 July 1950, 5.
Its statutes were approved in June 1950 and by December the AASA claimed one
thousand members throughout southern and eastern Angola and a 'delegation' in Luanda.
Voz, 25 August 1949, 2; 15 September 1949, 7; 18 May 1950, 4; 13 July 1950, 5; 6 July
1950, 4; 15 July 1950, 8; 14 December 1950, 5.
Voz, 7 July 1949, 4; 25 May 1950, 1-2. Its organizing committee was 'a group of Africans'
looking for support from 'fellow Africans' but they meant 'individuals of mixed-race or
assimilated race' [sic]. They also accepted, 'under conditions', female associates. 'Circular 1
da Comissão Organizadora' (July 1949), ANA, Caixa 430.
elite was hindered by suspicion of police infiltration. 31 Until 1960, the AASA's main
activities were occasional efforts to keep destitute 'natives' away from begging in
town and the organization of 'native' football championships, parallel to the district
main competitions.32
Waged employment was increasing but Huambo district's economy still relied
on trade based on peasant agriculture, with maize covering 42.5 percent of the
estimated 200,000 hectares cultivated in 1959.33 Trade was almost monopolised by
Portuguese settlers and in the early 1950s measures were taken against a revival of
black pedlars (bufarinheiros) who visited villages selling a variety of items, from
blankets to palm oil.34 Retail trade shops doubled between 1952 and 1959 when they
were more than two thousand.35
Transportation facilities and the city's demand for food attracted many peasants
to the region, from the more populated areas of Sambo, Bailundo and elsewhere,
adding to Huambo´s cultural heterogeneity but keeping Umbundu as the dominant
language, either as a mother tongue or an adopted one.36 These population
AASA president in 1950, António Burity da Silva, was a member of Salazarist União
Nacional and became a member of Portuguese parliament. Voz, 6 November 1952, 8,
describes an official visit to Portugal by '25 Angolan-born couples' headed by AASA leader
Amaral Gourgel, with him repeatedly praising Portuguese 'imperial unity and racial
fraternity'. For an interpretation of AASA 'racial' tensions based on the account of political
exile João Chisseva: John Marcum, The Angolan Revolution (Massachusetts, 1969), vol. I,
105-12. He got dates wrong but highlighted the role of seminarians and ex-seminarians in
the Association.
A good 'native' football player was occasionally recruited by the teams were the
'civilizados' played. Planalto, 23 October 1959, 8; 27 October 1959, 5; 7 November 1959, 4;
10 November 1959, 4 and 8.
J. Sampaio D'Orey, A.S. Labisa and A.C. Soares, 'Missão para o estudo da atracção das
grandes cidades e do bem-estar rural. Relatório da Campanha de 1957 (Angola)', IPAD/MU
166. According to their confidential results, at least 40 percent of maize exported by Angola
was 'produced autonomously by Huambo natives'. Labisa report, 15. The 1958-1959 Cereal
Board campaign in Huambo had a record number of about 40,000 persons receiving maize
seeds. Planalto, 25 December 1959, 7.
Itinerant commerce was accused of hindering established (European) traders' profits in the
Huambo District. Voz, 2 November 1950; 24 January 1952. In 1948 itinerant commerce had
been 'totally forbidden': Diploma legislativo 2,049, Boletim Oficial, 16 June 1948.
Planalto, 25 December 1959, 7.
Note that not all Umbundu-speaking adults were children of Ovimbundu parents and that
Ovimbundu were diverse themselves. Misguided colonial language-based 'ethnic'
movements were welcomed by Portuguese authorities for their economic
contribution, despite raising issues of social control. In town, male street vendors
(quitandeiros) sold vegetables, milk, poultry, meat, maize, coal and other supplies
from adjacent areas. But the growth of the white population led to calls for a proper
market-place, Voz do Planalto railing against the 'improper and unhygienic display
of quitandas in every street … with undesirable gatherings of black servants and
cooks with white ladies, in an upsetting promiscuity'.37 Measures against 'natives'
selling milk and vegetables door-to-door, invoking hygiene or 'modernization',
favoured Portuguese retail trade but caused other settlers' discontent.38 A municipal
market finally opened in January 1953, near downtown, but the city was too vast and
many street vendors continued to operate.39 As modern shops multiplied, however,
quitandeiro selling permits issued by the Town Council shrank from nine hundred in
1948 to only 98 in 1958.40 Door-to-door vendors became a tolerated 'illegality' and in
following decades women almost entirely took the business.
The language of 'labour stabilization', 'community development' and 'native
welfare' came to the Portuguese colonies later than to the British and French ones.41
Portuguese concerns in the 1950s were mainly the control of 'native' mobility and the
perils of 'vagrancy' and undisciplined urbanization, with tax evasion always in
classifications pervaded academic work and social stereotypes, ignoring the fact that sharing
a language is not necessarily equivalent to sharing 'traditions' or 'identities'.
Voz, 3 August 1950, 4; 4 August 1951. For a more positive opinion about vegetable
vendors: Voz, 21 September 1952.
Interdiction of 'native' milk selling was contested: 'for many years they have supplied the
town, daily, with 200 litres in the dry season and 300 litres in the rainy season': Voz, 31
January 1952, 5.
Voz, 8 January 1953, 4.
Planalto, 25 December 1959, 11.
Frederick Cooper, 'Development, modernization and the social sciences in the era of
decolonization: The examples of British and French Africa', Revue d’histoire des sciences
humaines, 10 (2004), 9-38. The anti-colonial war in Angola prompted the 'scientific study'
of labour relations and development policies: Afonso Mendes, O Trabalho Assalariado em
Angola, (Lisbon 1966), Fernando Diogo da Silva, O Huambo: Mão-de-obra Rural no
Mercado de Trabalho de Angola: Para a Formação de uma Política de Desenvolvimento
Equilibrado (Luanda, 1968).
focus.42 Recognizing the economic importance of African agriculture, the Cereal
Exports Board (Junta de Exportação dos Cereais) and the Agricultural Office began
in 1955 an 'Itinerant Agriculture Stabilization Programme' in order to 'reorganize' and
'develop' production.43 Unsuccessful, the program was nonetheless the beginning of
'rural reorganization' experiments and fought alienation of lands belonging either to
village communities or to 'native' agricultores (farmers).44 It could have been the
beginning of greater social differentiation among the peasantry, but the development
of 'native' landowners and entrepreneurs was blocked, since only a tiny fraction of
'native' producers could qualify as agricultores: coffee producers had to cultivate ten
hectares plus two hectares of basic foodstuffs; while maize producers should
cultivate five hectares, grow ten fruit trees and use a plough and two oxen. Without
proper technical advice, the issue of the official agricultor card was left to the
discretion of administrators who feared the end of cheap labour and often argued that
registrations as cultivadores and agricultores were 'subterfuges for vagrancy'.45
Agriculture went on marking Huambo peri-urban landscape, but measures
protecting collective village lands and some small farmers in rural areas did not
extend to the myriad of plots cultivated mainly by women on the town outskirts, who
did not meet the agricultor criteria.46 These small producers were also the most
threatened by unauthorized but eventually legalized European urban expansion. The
In 1956-7, despite population growth, Huambo Concelho 'lost' more than one thousand
'native' tax payers, revealing successful evasion strategies. In mid-1957 a meeting of
administrators discussed 'native' policy, from the Labour Code to alcoholism, 'vagrancy',
village improvement and 'Native Reserves' but little 'development' action was seen before
1961. Administration Notes, ANA, Códice 10,445.
Implicitly trying to reduce the impact of wage labour on peasant production. In 1959,
Angola had 339.014 rural waged labourers in Angola, 123,685 with written 'contracts'.
Silva, Huambo, 175-6. Soares, Política, 47-63.
Silva, Huambo, 51 and 329; Soares, Política, 47-63; ANA, Códice 10,445.
'Campanha de Estabilização da Agricultura Indígena 1956-1957', ANA, Códice 10,445.
In Posto Benfica, occupying part of the rural surroundings of Huambo Posto Sede and
further south, 'native reserves' were established to avoid settlers' occupation. Circular 71 (21
February 1957) and Circular 72 (22 February 1957) from Governo do Distrito to
Administrações de Concelho, ANA, Códice 10,445.
1960 census highlighted the economic importance of 'native' women in Huambo
Concelho: 30,500 women were among the 'active population' of 62,804 which was
61 percent of that of the entire Concelho.47 Four women-only categories (dona de
casa, doméstica, doméstica agrícola and familiar) tried for the first time to
characterize the female mass outside waged work.48 While all others had
'professions', those women and people living on their means (proprietários) were
under the 'occupation' category but in diverse 'situations', from running a business to
unpaid work for relatives.49 Women were only 11 percent of the 'profession' sector
but 88 percent of the 'occupation' sector, essentially as housewives and cultivators.50
The greatest impact Huambo District made in the post-war economy was
through its migrant workers, with both 'contract' and 'free' labour expanding to
unprecedented levels: from 1951 to 1960, 'contract' workers went from 14,000 to
22,000 and rising. In 1958, temporary migrant 'native' waged workers numbered
27,371 (4,304 inside the district) out of a calculated black population of about half a
million.51 As mentioned above, coffee-related white settlement in northern Angola
caused an intensification of labour recruitment on the plateau.52 Labour legislation
not only allowed coercion under several pretexts but also induced people to accept
lower payment for local activities, hoping to stay there. Coercive labour was intrinsic
The 1960 Census provided precious information on working situations. Nothing similar
existing for 1950 and only the 'civilized population' was covered in 1940. But as data were
published only in 1967 both the native-civilized division and 'ethnic groups' were ignored.
Moreover, the Concelho was the lowest level for detailed data, instead of Postos, let alone
cities. 1960 Census, IV.
Both dona de casa and doméstica were housewives, the former employing remunerated
servants; doméstica agrícola was responsible for her home but worked also in the fields;
familiar was a girl or woman living in a household but not responsible for it. 1960 Census,
IV, 7.
1960 Census, IV, 8. Both 'active population' and 'unemployed' began at the age of ten.
Data were not disaggregated by 'race' but the Concelho white female population was only
5,906 and adult women probably half of that. 1960 Census, IV, 30-1, 40. Inclusion of
women in 'active population' was crucial since African women 'only exceptionally are
occupied exclusively with housekeeping'. Silva, Huambo, 131-2.
For 'contract' workers, Silva, Huambo, 122, n. 98, and 179, Table XLIV. District
population was then calculated at 537.391 inhabitants: 18,208 Whites, 515.425 Blacks,
3,758 Mestiços. Planalto, 25 December 1959, 7.
Rebelo, Angola, 56-64 and 282.
to much of colonial Africa and it was only in 1957 that ILO conventions imposed its
total abolition, including for 'public works'. Portugal ratified them and also the 1955
convention against prison penalties for 'native' contract-breakers, but runaway
workers were still 'returned' to their employers.53
The Natives' Guardian office (Curadoria dos Indígenas) of the Concelho was
supposed to control travelling labour recruiters (angariadores), the flux of workers
and their 'contract' conditions: destination, salaries, length and type of work involved.
In the 1950s there was a tighter control over recruiters and their areas of action,
number of workers allowed to each individual boss or corporation (from just a few to
a few thousand) and for how long. Main angariadores had auxiliaries, including
'natives', all getting their licence from the local Curadoria office. Workers' salaries
were split and partially sent back to the local Curadoria, which kept the money until
they returned.54 Irregularities, abuse and manipulation occurred, as confirmed by
post-1961 reforms 'strictly forbidding' recruiters from remunerating chiefs, family
members or anyone in a position of 'influencing' workers.55
Despite its powerful imprint on present-day Angolan social memory, massive
numbers of 'contract' workers from Huambo to the northern regions were more a
feature of the 1960s.56 In 1963 the Huambo district supplied more than 46 percent of
all 'contract workers' (contratados) in Angola, representing 13 percent of Huambo's
active population.57 In 1967 coffee plantations absorbed 85 percent of contract
workers leaving Huambo, with the secondary and tertiary sectors needing fewer due
to more free migrants, many from Huambo too.58 By then, transportation and labour
Mair, Native Policies, 11. Silva, Huambo, 233-4.
The Agência da Curadoria do Concelho do Huambo kept information about licences,
number of workers allowed, workers' salaries etc. For the 1950s: ANA, Códices 3,520;
4,226; 4,352; 7,117; 10,959; 10,960 and 11,955.
Silva, Huambo, 240.
They more than doubled between 1960 and 1967. Silva, Huambo, 178-9 and 191.
Ibid, 226 and 219, Table LXIII.
Ibid, 228.
conditions had changed enough to make contratado work attractive in a zone where
salaries were well below Angolan average.59 On the eve of independence, about
120,000 workers left the Central Plateau every year to the northern coffee
plantations, the coastal fisheries, the eastern diamond mines and a few more places.
The situation in the 1950s, however, was very far from that.
So, although the city was attracting more people than it lost, Huambo was for
many a temporary stopping place between the village and the next big city (Luanda
or Lobito) or between cycles of work elsewhere. As soil erosion and exploitative
trade affected cash-crop agriculture, low salaries were partially eaten away by the
'native tax' and white immigration reduced the availability of land, some also looked
for better paid jobs beyond Angola's borders. Colonial authorities were unable to
impose effective frontier control and, although far from the steady movement from
northern Angola into the Belgian Congo, people from central and eastern Angola left
for the Copperbelt and for Southern Africa.60 From Huambo, they used the railway or
the old caravan trade routes through eastern Angola to Katanga and Northern
Rhodesia, from where Southern Rhodesia and South Africa could easily be reached.
The resulting networks of relatives and fellow-countrymen (and women) stretched
over central and southern Africa. New experiences and information shared through
those networks influenced not only religious and musical innovation, or 'modern' hair
and dress styles, but also new evaluations of colonial rule.61 Huambo administrators
were aware of unauthorized migration and received official correspondence from the
In 1965 the average wage in Huambo was half that in Luanda and inferior to most other
regions. Ibid, 223 n. 66. War did not have the positive effect on rural salaries in central
Angola that it had in the north.
In late 1950s conservative numbers mentioned 250,000 Angolans living temporarily or
permanently outside Angolan borders. By 1967 some calculated 'no more than 40,000 going
out, against about 160,000 circulating inside the territory'. Ibid, 225.
Portuguese authorities tried to capture the potentially 'subversive' correspondence from
Angolans in Rhodesia who sent news about the absence of 'contract' work, road corvées and
military conscription. Administrador do Concelho to Secretaria do Distrito, 14 October
1955. AHU, MU/GM/GNP/SR135, Pasta 40.
Rhodesias and South Africa about injured or deceased Angolan workers whose
families were supposed to get their belongings back and, occasionally,
Shifting limits: town, suburbs and villages
In 1960, the Angolan population remained overwhelmingly rural and Luanda, with
225,000 inhabitants, had almost half of the total urban population, followed by
Lobito with 50,000 and Huambo with 39,000.63 With both whites and blacks flocking
to the main towns, the percentage of the urban population doubled between 1940 and
1960 but these statistics were conservative, since many 'native' urban dwellers
avoided registration to escape taxes and labour recruitment.64 Post-war Portuguese
immigration propelled the white population in Angola from 78,826 (2 percent) in
1950 to 172,529 (more than 3.5 percent) in 1960.65 Many newcomers were from
rural backgrounds but established themselves in the cities, especially in Luanda,
where 'whites' more than doubled in a decade, forming 25 percent of the population
in 1960. That led to 'racial' job competition, the 'whitening' of some social spaces, the
pushing of many black and mixed-race families to the periphery and an overall
increase in racial tensions.66 But territorial distribution of 'whites' in 1960 still
reflected Angola's past history: nearly 40 per cent lived in the central and southern
districts, 30 per cent in Luanda or nearby and only 30 per cent in eastern and
northern Angola.
ANA, Códices 10,445; 10,396; 10,411.
In the late 1950s, about 60,000 Angolans were part of the 400,000 inhabitants of
Léopoldville, making it the second 'Angolan' city. Charles Gondola, Villes Miroirs:
Migrations et Identités Urbaines à Kinshasa et Brazzaville, 1930-1970, (Paris 1996), 298.
Lack of identification and 'native' tax documents were frequent cause of imprisonment.
See below.
1960 Census, I.
For Luanda in the 1950s, see Christine Messiant, 'Luanda (1945-1961): Colonisés, société
coloniale et engagement nationaliste', in Michel Cahen dir., Bourgs et Villes en Afrique
Lusophone, (Paris, 1989), 125-99; Marissa Moorman, Intonations: a Social History of
Music and Nation, Luanda, Angola, 1945-recent times, (Athens, Ohio, 2008).
Angolan cities ranged from those further south where whites were more than
half of the urbanites, to others were they were a tiny minority. Huambo stood in
between: in 1940 the town had 3,214 'whites' (19.73 percent of the 16,288 total
population); in 1950 they were 4,756 (16.8 percent of the 28,296 inhabitants) and in
mid-1950s they were about 5,758 (15.4 percent of 37,381 inhabitants). The 1960
Census did not publish detailed information on the 38,745 city dwellers, but among
the 70,629 inhabitants of Posto Sede 'whites' numbered 12,510 (17.71 percent), a
percentage certainly higher in the city.
Although between 1950 and 1960 the number of 'whites' in Posto Sede more
than doubled, the 'whitening' of Huambo until 1961 was slower than in Luanda and
Lobito. But the increasing number of Europeans affected personal and work
relations, brought new consumption and leisure habits, put new demands on public
services and reinforced the overall perception, on the part of black people, that they
were not welcome in the central areas of the city except at work or at special events.
Growing European population in Angola meant more imports, urban
'modernization', industrial growth and several towns having electricity and water for
the first time. In Huambo throughout the 1950s, electricity, water and sanitation
improved slowly and could not keep pace with the expansion of the white
population, let alone the black one.67 Electricity from the CCFB never satisfied city
needs and the domestic night scene was dominated by a variety of kerosene lamps,
even after the City Council hired a generator in 1959.68 Water supplies and sanitation
were still a serious problem except downtown, and the tanker which was supposed to
water the streets in the dry season was busy providing water to Alta and other areas
Voz 15 February 1951; 6 September 1951.
Rebelo, Angola, 233-4. However, electricity consumption rose from 301,192 to 2,549,890
Kw/hour between 1948 and 1958: Planalto, 25 December 1959, 5 and 11.
most of the time.69 In peri-urban bairros, water was either carried by women and
youngsters from watercourses and sources or bought from water carriers
(aguadeiros) pulling and rolling barrels.70 In both urban and suburban areas many
people dug wells (cacimbas) which provided for the basic needs of families most of
the year. The precarious urban sanitation was often denounced and the good climate
praised for the lack of epidemics, along with criticism of urbanites' bad habits: dirty
backyards, rubbish everywhere and even cows freely grazing in town.71
Old transport means, contributing to dirty streets, diminished but survived: in
1948 the Council registered 61 carts pulled by oxen or donkeys, and 28 in 1958.72
Bus transportation was limited and did not serve most suburban areas, let alone
peripheral villages, so those living out of town and working in town walked or cycled
many kilometres daily. Bicycles were of great help covering distances and carrying
things and soon they became objects of desire and symbols of status among 'natives'.
In a newspaper advert, exceptionally using a black man, a cyclist was 'looking
forward to the arrival of his new ideal bicycle … the only one that can fulfil his
dream… a Humber', from Lobito (represented by a palm-tree and a ship).73
Registered bicycles (they were taxed) rose from 1,432 to 3,397 between 1948 and
1958, with frequent complains about unregistered or stolen bicycles.74
Voz, 15 September 1949, 3 and 6; 10 July 1952; 17 July 1952. In July 1952 the City
Council decided to send the tanker daily to Benfica which, despite the great number of
whites, only in 1955 got water from the mains. Voz, 31 July 1952, 7; 3 February 1955, 4; 2
July 1959, 6; Planalto, 20 October 1959, 4.
Interview with Raul David, Luanda, 7 October 1994. The method still existed in late
1960s: António Caldeira, 'O Bairro de Cacilhas de Nova Lisboa: Angola. Uma abordagem
etno-sociológica', Dissertation ISCSPU (Lisbon 1974), 150. One hundred litres barrels were
relatively easy to obtain from wine merchants.
Voz, 30 March 1950, 6; 31 January 1952, 2.
Planalto, 25 December 1959, 5 and 11.
União Ciclista advert, Voz, 16 June 1949, 7.
For instance, Voz, 25 November 1939, 7; 11 September 1952, 4; 9 October 1952, 7; 20
November 1952, 2; 11 December 1952, 4. Planalto, 22 September 1959, 5. Also ANA,
Códices 6,874; 3,512; 4,382.
Urban planners advocated apartment blocks and the abandonment of large
gardens, backyards and empty spaces around each house, which complicated basic
municipal services. Except for a few buildings, however, Huambo was, until 1960, a
city of bungalows, detached and semi-detached houses with one or two floors and a
few terraces.75 Outside the official town perimeter modest detached houses
dominated, made of brick or adobe walls, thatched or covered with roof-tiles, usually
with a back garden. Only a few streets were sealed: dust in the dry season and mud in
the rainy season were the common lot of urbanites, rich and poor.76
The 1948 new law on 'native wards' received specific regulation only in 1956.77
The uncontrolled flux of urban and peri-urban dwellers across the continent, many
living in poor conditions, prompted studies about labour mobility and 'stabilization',
the new leitmotif for African urbanization.78 The problem of 'native housing' was not
a mere urbanization problem but a political one, as 'detribalized natives' were seen no
longer to be subject to 'tribal' discipline and were instead 'freely' wandering around.
In Angola, that 'threat' was paramount in discussions about urbanization and
prospective 'native wards' and in the late 1950s, with political problems adding to old
sanitary and police concerns, it was feared that masses of 'natives' could overcome
their internal differences and become aware of their collective power, putting whites
at risk.79
Voz, 27 September 1951, 7, on 'modern tendencies of African urbanization'.
Voz 28 December 1940. Planalto, 25 December 1959, 5 and 11.
Diploma Legislativo nº 2.097, 17 November 1948. Regulamento dos Bairros Indígenas,
aprovado pelo Diploma Legislativo nº 2.799, de 9 de Maio de 1957, (Luanda, 1957).
Soares, Política, 189.
J.C. Mitchell, 'Urbanization, détribalisation et stabilisation en Afrique Méridionale:
Comment les définir et les mesurer', in UNESCO, Aspects Sociaux de l'Industrialisation et
de l'Urbanisation en Afrique au Sud du Sahara (Paris, 1956). Aguiar, L’Habitation. For
French policies, see A. Sinou et al, Les Villes d'Afrique noire: Politiques et Opérations
d'Urbanisme et d'Habitat entre 1650 et 1960 (Paris, 1989).
Soares, Política, 173-249, especially 173-4, 178-80. Published in 1961, this work used
information from the 1957 official mission. See also Silva Cunha, 'O enquadramento social
dos indígenas destribalizados', Revista do Gabinete de Estudos Ultramarinos, Separata, 5-6
In practice little was done, due to scarce state resources and to contradictory
opinions about the location of such 'native wards': either distant from the 'white city'
but connected to workplaces by rapid transport systems, or in special settlements
inside the urban perimeter. Adepts of the former invoked epidemic risks, the higher
costs of urban lands, and security risks if white-black relationships deteriorated.
Other opinions insisted on shorter distances between residence and workplace and
argued that sheer segregation was not in Portuguese colonial traditions.80 In the
Overseas Urbanization Office, architect Aguiar defended a clear divide between the
'native community' and the European city, using topographic features or 'tree
curtains', but installing 'natives' not too far from their work.81 Others suggested a dual
pattern: distant housing (supplied with water, electricity, transportation and
schooling) for the mass of people still 'far from being civilized'; and integration in
town for those with 'civilized patterns of life', who should share neighbourhoods with
white people of similar economic conditions.82 Despite arguments in favour of
'suburban wards' well outside of the urban area, 'native wards' (bairros indígenas)
were created in Luanda, Lobito and Benguela close to town limits or even inside
In Huambo, the prohibition of 'native' pockets inside town existed from the
beginning but there was enough land outside it to avoid crowded slums. Agriculture,
pigs, goats and chickens made dwellers less dependent on the market and helped
against destitution. Since economic weakness pushed many poorer Portuguese
newcomers to peripheral neighbourhoods like Cacilhas, Benfica or São Pedro, those
areas got a mixed population shaped more by their income rather than by 'race'.
Eventually, the 'whitening' of some bairros led to urbanization schemes which forced
'native' inhabitants to opt for the periphery of the periphery, although some relatively
Soares, Política, 199-204.
Aguiar, L'habitation, 7-8.
Soares, Política, 198.
better-off black and mixed-race families managed to stay.83
The 1947 plan for Huambo approved in Lisbon kept the existing general
layout, integrating new or recently legalized European residential areas and
indicating prospective 'native' wards. But the city grew well beyond the plan and
blurred its very limits, as detailed maps based on aerial survey soon documented:
settlements ran along communication routes and created an urban-rural continuum
rather than a clear division (see map 7).84 Two types of housing were identified on
the town periphery and beyond: cubatas (huts) and construções definitivas
(permanent constructions). That distinction, based on photographed roofs, was
inaccurate since many thatched houses were built with the same materials of those
covered with tiles or corrugated iron: adobe or bricks. In 1959, the area under the city
council jurisdiction had to be extended again to accommodate new bairros.85
The undisciplined town stretched along the railway and the main roads towards
the north (Benfica), west (São Pedro, Cacareua), south (Santo António and Fátima)
and east (São João, São José and Cacilhas).86 The once out-of-town Kanye Mission
was by 1960 nearer to downtown than some new residential areas integrated in the
city due to their density of white dwellers. When Huambo District was carved out of
Benguela in 1954, the new district capital got more resources for its own
development and finally water was supplied to the main city areas, and a few primary
Cacilhas was an example, which evolved from an 'out of town' village-like settlement to a
more structured and dense 'suburban area' in 1930s, claiming for electricity and water in the
late 1950s when its white population was already significant: Voz, 31 March 1934; Planalto,
20 October 1959, 4. In the 1960s it got a state-funded low-rent urbanization project (Bairro
Económico) which included a small minority of black families. In the meantime a large
'popular' and irregular Cacilhas developed around 'urban' Cacilhas. See Caldeira, 'Bairro de
Junta das Missões Geográficas e de Investigações do Ultramar, 'Levantamento
Aerofotogramétrico', Huambo (1953).
Planalto, 8 November 1959, 1.
Benfica was apparently the oldest bairro and its two to three thousand population in mid1960s was described as 'humble people of all colours, predominantly white and mixed-race,
almost entirely Catholics'. Costa, Cem anos, 276-8.
schools were built in the periphery (São Pedro, São João, Benfica) to serve its multiracial 'citizens'.
Overcrowded slums that characterized other cities were absent because the
plateau topography allowed space for thousands to come and build their houses,
either in a village-like pattern or otherwise. Neighbourhoods grew along roads or
around merchants or catechists, but cultivated areas were not very far away and it
was common to have in the same household people working in town and people
working in the fields. Townspeople's strong connexions with adjacent or more distant
rural zones and the importance of agriculture and petty trade moderated
proletarianization despite waged work expansion. Whatever criteria we use for an
urban-rural divide, it was unclear in Huambo, underlining Frederick Cooper's
comment on African cities as 'not the bastion of white society that colonial officials
imagined, nor … the haven of the 'detribalized' native that they feared, for what
appeared chaotic to Europeans was often the fruit of well-organized networks of
rural-urban connection'.87
Language reflected the ill-defined city limits but also different perceptions of
urban reality. In Portuguese, the city (cidade) meant the economic and administrative
centres (Baixa and Alta) and residential areas around them (bairros) inhabited mostly
by whites. It was distinct from 'bairros suburbanos' (suburban meant 'less urban' in
their infrastructure, population lifestyle and services provided) and from quimbos
(from Umbundu imbo, village) or sanzalas.88 In Umbundu, olupale (city, big
settlement) or vokati ('in the centre') included the Baixa, Alta and the main 'white'
bairros. But sanjala described 'urban' settlements inhabited mostly or exclusively by
Cooper, Africa since 1940, 120.
Sanzala is a Portuguese word (from Kimbundu; sanjala in Umbundu) describing either an
African village or African neighborhood near colonial settlements. See Le Guennec and
Valente, Dicionário; Daniel, Ondisionaliu. For the many translations of 'bairro' in
Umbundu, see H. Etaungo Daniel, Dicionário Português-Umbundu (Luanda, 2010), 127. I
thank the author and his wife Raquel for clarifying to me the use of osanjala as meaning a
settlement 'out of town' yet 'near town' (Lisbon, 31 October 2011).
non-whites in the immediate periphery, while imbo and ocikanjo described villagelike settlements in the rural ring around all that. Obviously, the frontiers between
bairro, quimbo and cidade were blurred and shifting through time.89
Some interviewees recalled their peri-urban neighbourhood as a bairro, distinct
from the cidade/vokati (city) and from the aldeia/imbo (village) For instance, in
'suburban Fatima', near the airport and not very far from Alta, lived waged workers,
including railwaymen and civil servants, but almost every family had cultivated plots
and chickens. The only whites were two shopkeepers and their families.90 Other
interviewees recalled living in 'a village near Huambo', such as Tarcísio, then
belonging to Posto Benfica, where most families initially came for the arable land
but had one or more members working 'in town' or for the CCFB. Again, the only
whites were two shopkeepers.91 Both settlements began with a Catholic catechist
school in the 1930s or earlier but developed with people from different regions and
included Protestants. Thatched roofs were common even in houses of three or four
rooms, but in time many were improved with cemented floors and tiled roofs. None
of those areas had electricity or water facilities, that was the case in many 'white'
neighbourhoods as well.92
Apparently, what distinguished a peripheral bairro or sanjala from a village in
people's perception was population density, heterogeneity and greater access to 'the
centre' rather than economic activities, occupations or house building materials.
All my interviewees identified 'the city' with 'the white city' but they considered 'urban'
also non-white people living outside that area, depending on their ways of living.
Interview with Santos, Luanda, 17 May 2010. His father cultivated and sold vegetables
and carried out various businesses; his mother worked in town as washwoman for highranking civil servants.
Interview with Capumba, Luanda, 20 January 2006. His mother was a peasant; one of his
sisters washed laundry for white families in town; his father owned beehives, pigs and goats
but he was also a mason who cycled daily to work in town.
In Portugal itself the 1950 Census indicated about 70 percent of families with no
electricity and water, let alone sewage. Town mains were absent in almost half of Concelho
seats. Rui Cascão, 'Modos de habitar', in Irene Vaquinhas (ed.), História da Vida Privada
em Portugal: A Época Contemporânea (Lisbon, 2011), 22-55, especially 37.
However, those classifications situated the place of residence in a hierarchy with
peripheral villages at the bottom and the city centre at the top. As in other aspects of
colonial society, the top not only enjoyed more wealth and 'the comforts of
civilization' or 'urban facilities' but it was also perceived as exclusively 'white', no
matter the odd exception.
In the 1950s, urbanization and rural-urban migration were discussed as part of
the 'detribalized native' problem in academic circles as well as among colonial
administrators who perceived most 'native' urbanites as uprooted, unstable and
'demoralization of individuals, violation of traditional codes, impoverishment,
excessive mobility, nomadic habits, vagrancy, theft, prostitution and sexual
delinquency'.94 Urban planning was aimed at inculcating discipline and stability in
that 'erratic, marginal, floating, unfitted population' of 'detribalized' but not yet
'civilized' individuals who, some argued, should be separated from natives who were
'civilized' de facto or de jure.95
The 1954 Native Statute, however, treated urban 'natives' and villagers 'no
longer integrated in traditional political organizations' as one group: they were
directly dependent on Portuguese authorities who could appoint auxiliaries of the
civil administration (regedores administrativos and cabos de ordens) with police
functions to be regulated by further legislation. Thus, like traditional olosoma and
olosekulu but without their historical legitimacy, state-appointed regedores helped
colonial administrators in controlling population movements, labour and taxation.
However, it was not unusual for Christian missions and big employers like the CCFB
Silva Cunha, O Sistema Português de Política Indígena (Lisbon, 1952). A. Castilho
Soares, 'Introdução a um estudo do urbanismo em Angola: Bairros Indígenas nos Centros
Urbanos', Estudos Ultramarinos, 1 (1960), 119-55. Also Cunha, 'O enquadramento' and
Soares, Política.
Soares, Política, 233.
Ibid, 193-4, 204, 219-21.
to claim responsibility for 'their own people' and to discuss problems involving them
directly with the District authorities.96 The Catholic Church whose 'highly socializing
function' included 'feasts and solemn religious events that are powerful elements of
moral and artistic education and inculcate a sense of order and discipline', was
expected to help to control the urban masses through spiritual guidance and more
prosaic means, like youth organizations.97
Law and order
From the beginning, civil administration relied on a small 'native' police force of
cipaios reinforced by 'native' soldiers whenever needed.98 Cipaios were the
immediate 'intermediaries' with the colonial state, the most tangible face of its
repressive apparatus and its main 'translators' of the law, without the prestige
associated with chiefs, interpreters or even soldiers. Their tasks included labour
recruitment, tax registry, round-ups and arrests; they also acted as jail guards,
prisoner escorts, summoners, notice servers and messengers between administrative
posts or between the administration and African chiefs. They were used to control
gangs of porters, cleaners, road menders or prisoners working in state fields.99
Initially, taxation and labour took up most of the cipaios' working time in
Huambo, frequently summoning olosekulu and olosoma in order to assure their
cooperation. Cipaios were for decades the main police force in the city, despite
On 22 May 1945, a CCFB Director in Lobito complained to the Huambo Administrator
about their workers being arrested despite having all documents. The Secretary forwarded a
copy to the Police in 31 May with instructions to be more careful. ANA, Caixa 496.
Soares, Política, 233-4.
In Angola, cipaios (from the Indian word sepoy) were not soldiers, unlike in Mozambique
where the name identified African troops in the Portuguese army. Eugénia Rodrigues,
'Cipaios da Índia ou soldados da terra? Dilemas da naturalização do exército português em
Moçambique no século XVIII', História, 45 (2006), 57-95.
For detailed information on cipaios in Huambo, between the 1910s to the 1950s, see
Administração do Concelho do Huambo - Nova Lisboa, ANA, Códices 3,510; 3,512; 3,499;
4,245; 4,481; 4,482; 6,809; 9,863; 9,851; 9,847; 11,980; and 10,077.
protests from 'humiliated' European settlers.100 In the 1950s, administrators' main
concern was with undocumented and uncontrolled 'natives' in and around town, with
cipaios involved in round-ups and in the capture of thieves, alcohol producers and
other offenders.
Despite diversity of origins, registries show an overwhelming majority of
people from Huambo and adjacent regions serving throughout the period, probably
explaining why cipaios were frequently accused of collusion with prisoners to set
them free or to alleviate their work.101 Recruitment of strangers (neither Ovimbundu
nor Ovingangela) was tried, for instance from Kwanyama in southern Angola.102
Preference for people with military training and discipline existed and the job was
often taken by ex-soldiers, but that did not prevent a high turnover: many were
sacked for alcoholism but others simply deserted, looking for other jobs in Angola
and beyond.103 Cipaios had no reasons to feel great loyalty to the colonial state since
they could be subject to the same arbitrary punishment as other prisoners.104 But like
'native' troops and 'native' chiefs, cipaios got tax exemption and the 1933 Overseas
Administrative Reform kept them as salaried 'auxiliaries of civil administration in the
colonies', along with chiefs and interpreters.105
As the often brutal and more visible arm of the colonial administration, most
people hated them and their authority was often challenged, including violent
In 1930, Lobito had ten white policemen but Huambo had only cipaios to enforce the
law, something considered 'offensive to the white population'. Planalto, 14 April 1930, 1.
Among the 99 cipaios registered in 1913-1915, 70 percent came from the area HuamboSambo-Bailundo and 42 percent from Huambo itself. One was from Tanganyika and a few
were born in São Tomé, apparently from Angolan serviçais there. ANA, Códice 11,980.
ANA, Códice 9,847. Also Administrador do Concelho do Huambo to Administrador do
Concelho do Cuanhama, 10 June 1922, ANA, Caixa 466.
In 1937, for instance, 15 cipaios left for diverse reasons and thirty new ones were
enlisted. Administration Report 1937, ANA, Códice 3,563, 24-25.
Suspicion of theft by 'one of the best' could be enough to suggest sending him to São
Tomé 'to make an example of him'. Chefe de Posto da Vila Nova to Administração do
Concelho do Huambo, 5 November 1945. ANA, Caixa 496, Secção 7.
Ministério das Colónias. Reforma Administrativa aprovada pelo Decreto-Lei nº 23.229,
de 15 de Novembro de 1933 (Lisbon, 1933). Also Portaria 3,817, Voz, 1 November 1941, 2.
revenge on individuals. In Umbundu they were called kalamba or ukwakalamba, a
person who brings calamity, misery or bad luck, which even olosoma should fear, as
in a proverbial saying: 'Ngongolo okwãyi Ngovi, Ngovi okwãyi Kalamba: Kalamba
eñanga lyOlondjamba; tjinene Kandimba otunda k'Ondongo': a millipede follows
(obeys) the big antelope (as smaller olosoma obeyed greater olosoma), which obeys
kalamba, since he can even hunt elephants (a metaphor for important olosoma); but
at the top is the smart hare which came from Ndongo (here, a metaphor for the
Portuguese, who came from the north).106
In Huambo, a settler region where bureaucratic positions were filled by whites
and the odd non-white assimilado, black 'employees' of the administration were
mostly cipaios, messengers and servants. In the mid-twentieth century even official
interpreters were rarely needed since many people could act as translators, including
European merchants, civil servants and missionaries. But cipaios were essential to
the administration's everyday routine, communications and 'public order'. This was a
key concept in colonized Africa, adding special meanings to its initial formulation in
European metropoles. At least until 1945, 'disturbances' (alterações da ordem
pública) came to include all sorts of actions that could challenge control, privileges
and interests of European residents. But 'public order' was also invoked, sometimes
along with 'humanitarian reasons', to reject particular aspects of local customary
In the 1930s, the security apparatus in Huambo Concelho included: a battalion
of 'native' troops (Companhia Indígena de Metralhadoras), which could be requested
Albino Alves, Dicionário Etimológico Bundo-Português, I, (Lisbon, 1951), 251. A recent
dictionary gives okukalamba (verb) as synonimous of to scold/shout/yell: Daniel,
Ondisionaliu, 237.
In a sense similar to the 'repugnancy clauses' in British colonies. Filip Reyntjens, 'The
development of the dual legal system in former Belgian Central Africa (Zaire-RwandaBurundi)', in W.J. Mommsen & J.A. De Moor (eds.), European Expansion and Law. The
Encounter of European and Indigenous Law in 19th- and 20th-Century Africa and Asia,
(Oxford 1992), 116-7.
only in case of 'serious disturbances'; 24 cipaios paid by the Municipal Council, of
whom 11 worked at Posto Sede, with 15 Mauser rifles; and some unarmed and illegal
'municipal guards', unable to deal with any serious disturbance of peace.108 In 1940,
the available 12 cipaio force 'mostly policing the non urban area' of over one
thousand square kilometres was deemed utterly inadequate to a city which, 'by its
geographical location and its numerous European and native population [was] a
shelter for all kind of criminals'. Two 'municipal guards' did the policing of the
'urban' 24 square kilometres.109 In mid-1940s a Police station with a few white
policemen was finally installed but although many 'native' urbanites came and
complained there, their cases and any arrested perpetrators were forwarded to the
Native Court (Tribunal Privativo dos Indígenas).110
Huambo had low levels of criminality, considering its steady population
growth and the tiny police force. Throughout 1952, for instance, the local newspaper
mentioned disturbances by 'native' drunkards, thieves abounding like 'packs of
wolves' and useless nightwatchmen sleeping by their fires while burglars acted
freely. Eight policemen could not deal with all that and the city needed more officers
and also trained nightwatchmen.111 Those alarmist views were contradicted by police
crime reports published weekly in the same newspaper: a few thefts of bicycles or
chicken, some assaults, an odd burglary.112 However, rapid black population growth
raised white settlers' security fears and prompted more control measures: in
December 1952 a by-law criminalized 'natives' moving about town after 9.30 pm,
Administration Report 1937, 22-3. The administrator was pressing for a Police station
(Polícia de Segurança Pública) in town.
District Administration diary, 17 February 1940, ANA, Códice 7,444.
Most cases were assaults (including women accusing male perpetrators) and theft.
Tribunal Privativo dos Indígenas, 1945. ANA, Caixa 496, Secção 7.
Voz, 4 September 1952, 7; 3 July 1952, 2; 17 April 1952, 7; 6 November 1952, 2.
Voz, 11 September 1952, 4; 9 October 1952, 7; 20 November 1952, 2; 11 December
1952, 4.
forcing domestic servants and cooks either to leave their employers' houses in time to
get home before 9.30 or to stay overnight, sleeping in backyards or verandas.113
The state, however, could count on other ways of controlling the masses in and
around town: as Chanock noted for Northern Rhodesia, 'regulatory orders' included
'the rules of the churches and of economic organisations like mines and agricultural
estates, and the regulatory orders of African societies'.114 Christian churches' rules
became an important part of the legal environment and, in Huambo, the Catholic
network of catechists, their wives and helpers, together with missionaries with easy
access to Portuguese authorities, helped in keeping discontent under control and in
solving conflicts which would otherwise end at the Native Court.115 A big company
like CCFB, with a strong hierarchy and no unions limiting its power, also played its
role in social control, through incentives and the threat of job loss. Apparently, only
serious cases were sent to the administration, unless the Company wanted 'to teach a
lesson' to the accused worker.
The role of olosoma and olosekulu is more difficult to assess, since the more
complex social environment diluted their importance and not all had the same
legitimacy. Yet, 'direct administration' did not completely suppress 'indirect'
governance. The Overseas Administration Reform of 1933 confirmed African chiefs
and headmen (autoridades gentílicas) as 'auxiliaries of the civil administration' with
the obligation of 'obeying and promoting obedience', controlling population
movements, helping with tax collection, keeping public order at large, and informing
Voz, 9 May 1942, 6; 13 March 1952; 11 December 1952. Edital (20 December 1952)
from the Natives' Guardian representative in Concelho do Huambo, Planalto, 8 January
1953, 7. For a personal testimony, see João Hailonda, Trajectória de um Kwanyama: As
Minhas Memórias (Luanda, 2009), 17-8. The caderneta indígena was already mandatory for
'native' taxpayers but also for state-employed 'natives', female domestic servants and others.
A 1948 by-law, apparently not strictly applied, also forbade 'civilized' people to stay after
7.00 pm in 'native' neighbourhoods without proper justification.
Martin Chanock, 'The law market: The legal encounter in British East and Central
Africa', in Mommsen and De Moor, European Expansion, 298 and 302 n. 53.
The same happened among Protestants but in town they were only a minority.
about offences of all kinds. But they could not, 'at the risk of prison or public work',
collect their own taxes, levy fines, be lenient on repression of the alcohol business,
get any rewards for recruiting labour, or leave the area without the consent of the
Portuguese authorities.116 The 1954 Statute added that chiefs had to repress 'any
immoral and criminal acts' and a new prohibition: 'keeping any native incarcerated
without immediately informing the administrative authority'.117
Lists of olosoma and olosekulu in suburban areas confirmed the diversity of
their origins, with only a small number of names traceable back to the first decades
of the century.118 In that environment of rapid immigration, most olosoma and
olosekulu did not represent continuity of former powers and their position had little
comparison with the past, since people could easily get support from competing civil
or religious authorities. One example was soma Manuel Chavaia, in charge of São
Bartolomeu, chosen by the population and confirmed by authorities in June 1957.
Olosekulu responsible for the territorial subdivisions of São Bartolomeu came from
Bailundo, Chinguar and Cachingues (in southern Bié). In 1960, soma Chavaia was
accused, in a residents' open meeting with an official inquirer, of being paid for
judging 'native cases', collecting debts on behalf of Portuguese merchants, and
threatening debtors. In April 1961 he was again accused of demanding a pig valued
at six hundred escudos 'for judging a native case (questão gentílica)'.119
After 1961, the formal extension of Portuguese citizenship to 'natives' had
administrative implications but change was not radical, as the integration of all
former 'natives' into the Portuguese system of Municipal Councils (Câmaras
Municipais) divided in 'parishes' (freguesias) was out of the question. Claiming
Ministério das Colónias, Reforma Administrativa.
Estatuto 1954, Chapter II, Section I 'Political organization'.
Like soma Petróleo Caué Magrinho, of Jongolo, with all his olosekulu born in Huambo
or Caála. ANA, Códice 7,375.
'Dados biográficos de autoridades gentílicas do Concelho. 1934-1961. Sobado de S.
Bartolomeu, Nova Lisboa'. ANA, Códice 7,375.
respect for 'native traditions and habits', colonial legislators kept the dual system: all
settlements supposedly living 'according to the traditional law' were regedorias and,
again, for settlements without traditional chiefs but not having enough white
residents to become a freguesia, Portuguese administrative authorities nominated
regedores administrativos who were supposed to represent people there, although
individuals could ask for the application of Portuguese common law, under certain
It is important to discuss further the judicial state apparatus dedicated to
'natives' before 1961. It began with attempts in the 1920s to establish a complete
parallel judicial system and it ended in the pragmatic use of Administradores and
Chefes de Posto as all-powerful judges applying a mixture of written and non-written
law. Punishment for small offences, or simple accusations, could be limited to a
number of palmatória strokes but could also end in prison or forced labour
elsewhere. Retaliation against family elders and 'traditional' chiefs had a strong
dissuasive power over potential escapees, although many took their risks.121 The
daily violence of the system partly explained the low levels of open revolt, since
brutal repression over some people can spread fear and restraint among many more.
Frequent corporal punishment, sometimes in public, and occasional use of collective
punishment, unimaginable in 'modern' European legislation, were not distant stories
but close experiences.122 'Natives' behaviour was criminalized with or without
Organização das Regedorias das Províncias Ultramarinas: decreto nº 43.896, de 6 de
Outubro de 1961 (Lisbon, 1961). See also Decrees 43,897 and 43,898, 6 September 1961,
for the judicial organization.
Almost any Códice dealing with labour mentioned runaways: ANA, Códices 10,411 and
10,445. In 1954 the administrator of Caála dedicated a registry book to runaway 'contract'
workers, with 81 entries in four months: ANA, Códice 4,156. Jeremy Ball's interviews with
ex-'contract' workers from central Angola produced some interesting stories: '"I escaped in a
coffin": Remembering Angolan forced labor from the 1940s', Cadernos de Estudos
Africanos, 9-10 (2006), 63-75.
See the essays in Florence Bernault (ed.), Enfermement, Prison et Châtiments en Afrique
du 19e Siècle à nos Jours (Paris, 1999); also Florence Bernault, 'The shadow of rule:
colonial power and modern punishment in Africa', in F. Dikötter and I. Brown (eds.),
reference to existing laws, penalties were disproportionate, prisoners were regularly
beaten, were used as cheap or forced labour and could never be sure of their destiny.
One word from the colonial administrator could decide if they stayed in or out of
prison; a sympathetic cipaio could also make the difference, as proven by frequent
escapes and accusations of cipaios' complicity. In a world where any white person
could send 'natives' to the administration to be punished, for small mistakes as well
as for true crimes, most people chose to avoid trouble and not to be defiant. Nothing
of that was close to modern European jurisprudence and this fundamental aspect of
the colonial situation deserves further comment in order to make sense of empirical
data from Huambo.
Studies on how law and order were defined and put into action across colonial
Africa have shattered illusions of 'judicial modernity' being the good companion of
colonialism. Chanock, Bernault, Anderson, Burton and others have demonstrated that
the rule of law was not a pillar of the colonial administration and that what was in
place was neither an overseas transfer of a 'modern judicial system' nor a respectful
adaptation of local custom.123 Even a useful analytical device like 'legal pluralism',
Chanock argued, can be misleading since it suggests the coexistence of imported law
and customary law, while in fact 'both foreign and indigenous laws are products of
the colonial situation, continually being formed in response to new historical
circumstances'.124 Major crimes usually fell under 'European law', while others were
Cultures of Confinement: A History of the Prison in Africa, Asia and Latin America (Ithaca,
2007), 55-94.
Mommsen and De Moor, European Expansion and Law, especially Chanock 'The law
market'; David Anderson and David Killingray (eds.), Policing the Empire: Government,
Authority, and Control, 1830-1940 (Manchester, 1991).
Chanock 'The law market', 280-1. Reyntjens called it 'imperfect legal pluralism':
'Development', 114-23. East and Central Africa are essential for comparisons with Angola,
despite different law traditions in Portugal, Belgium and Britain. See, for example,
Chanock, Law, Custom, and Social Order: The Colonial Experience in Malawi and Zambia
(Cambridge, 1985); Andrew Burton, African Underclass: Urbanisation, Crime & Colonial
Order in Dar es Salaam (London, 2005); David Anderson 'Policing the settler state:
Colonial hegemony in Kenya, 1900-1952', in Dagmar Engels and Shula Marks (eds.),
dealt with a great variety of solutions. In Angola, where there was no written 'Native
Code', the definition of crime and punishment were even more dependent on the
arbitrary decision of the colonial state representative, despite detailed regulations on
procedures.125 There was also a gap between legislation modelled by fashionable
colonial doctrines and its application by men in the field reacting to sometimes
contradictory interests and pressures. So, the consequences of diverse colonial
doctrines are better understood from reality on the ground than from discussions in
imperial inner circles in Europe. However, these discussions may illuminate colonial
policies and subjacent ideologies, showing how the colonial state intended to deal
with its non-citizens.
The advance of colonial administration in Africa prompted discussions on the
relationship between indigenous and foreign juridical institutions and practices, both
for theoretical and practical reasons, with politicians and scholars agreeing that
colonial control implied some degree of acceptance of native institutions. Juridical
and penal differentiation between colonizers and colonized found a general
consensus making codification of 'native laws' necessary to institutionalize 'native
courts'.126 It was also accepted that 'customary law' would be restricted by
'humanitarian principles' or the superior interest of the colonial power. But while
some conceived 'native courts' as part of the 'indirect rule' experiment, others wanted
European administrations handling the judicial and repressive apparatus. That was
the case in Angola, where 'native cases' (questões gentílicas) serious enough to come
Contesting Colonial Hegemony: State and Society in Africa and India (London, 1994), 24865; John McCracken, 'Coercion and control in Nyasaland: Aspects of the history of a
colonial police force', JAH, 27 (1986), 127-47; Stacey Hynd, 'Law, violence and penal
reform: State responses to crime and disorder in colonial Malawi, c.1900-1959', JSAS, 3
(2011), 431-47; Richard Waller, 'Towards a contextualisation of policing in colonial Kenya',
Journal of Eastern African Studies, 4, 3 (2010), 524-40.
Portaria 3,126 (28 October 1939) regulated the Statute as revised in 1929, and a new
Regulamento was issued in 1943, but no Native Code existed. José Caramona Ribeiro,
Regulamento do Foro Privativo dos Indígenas de Angola (Luanda, 1944).
Cf. recommendations of the 1906 International Congress of Colonial Sociology, in
Cunha, O sistema, 41 ff.
to the Portuguese administration, like murder, were judged by the administrator with
advice from two 'natives', supposedly experts in 'native' custom.127 Post-1910
Republican laws distinguished between 'natives' ruled by 'codified and expurgated
customary law' and citizens subject to Portuguese civil law. That implied two things:
a special 'civil, political and criminal statute' for 'natives', indeed published in 1926,
and African customs' codification for the use of the Native Courts, which was never
Experience of the neighbouring Congos and French colonial jurisprudence at
large greatly influenced the Portuguese, as evident from references in legislation
preambles, although some were inspired by British examples.129 When diverse
legislation was subsumed in the first Native Statute (1926) 'customary law' was
meant to regulate 'family, property and inheritance rights' and 'habits and custom of
native social life' would be accepted unless offending Portuguese 'sovereignty rights'
or 'humanitarian principles'. A special court for 'natives' should be put in place in
every administrative area and, in the absence of customary laws' codification, they
could use 'declarations of the local native chief and two other respected natives
chosen by the administrative authority' but only with 'information functions'. It was
responsible for all civil cases involving natives but in serious criminal cases only if
defendant and plaintiff were both natives; otherwise the case should be judged in
normal courts. A Supreme Court for Natives presided over by the Governor-General
as their 'natural protector' was the appellate court and major penalties had to be
Portaria provincial 26 January 1907, Laboreiro, Ganda, 17.
Lei Orgânica de Administração das Províncias Ultramarinas, 15 Augost 1914. For
republican legislation in context, see Cristina Nogueira da Silva, 'As "normas científicas da
colonização moderna" e a administração civil das colónias', in José M. Sardica (ed.), A
Primeira República e as Colónias Portuguesas (Lisbon, 2010), 87-107. See also ClarenceSmith, Third Portuguese Empire, 116-45.
For brief survey of Portuguese colonial law, see Luís Chorão, 'Direito Colonial', in
António Barreto and Filomena Mónica (eds.), Dicionário da História de Portugal, (Porto,
1999), VII Suplemento A-E, 545-7.
confirmed by the Military Court.130 Portugal had had no death penalty since 1867;
instead, people were banished to São Tomé or to harsh regions in southern Angola.131
The 1954 Native Statute obliged the state to promote 'natives' material and
moral conditions, including 'education by schooling and working', in order to change
'primitive customs' and eventually achieve their 'integration into the community
through access to citizenship'. This apparent return to the 'assimilation' doctrine made
a separate judicial and penal system look contradictory but it was justified as
temporary, a necessary transition to an ideal unification. While accepting 'native
customs' limited 'by morals, humanitarian reasons and the superior interests of
Portuguese rule', colonial authorities were expected to 'harmonize' customs with
'fundamental principles of the public and private Portuguese law', looking for a
'cautious evolution of native institutions' in that same direction. They should also
consider the 'native' individual's 'degree of evolution, his moral qualities, his
professional ability and his withdrawing from or integration in tribal society'. Article
27 opened to 'natives' the option for Portuguese 'common law' on matters related to
'family, inheritance, trade and real estate', with restrictions. But penal law was not so
advanced and the system designed in the 1920s went on, giving up the Native Courts
and leaving the administrator as judge and the administration premises functioning as
a local prison, from where detainees were sent elsewhere as unpaid or paid labour.132
Reformist Adriano Moreira justified the judicial powers of the administration not
only for financial reasons but because the 'native mindset' would not understand the
distinction between the executive and the judiciary. The Portuguese Constitution, he
noted, did not impose respect for 'native' laws but only 'acquiesced to their customs
Decree 12,533, 23 October 1926, establishing the Native Statute.
ANA, Códice 4,382. In Angola, the banishment place was supposed to be decided by the
Governor-General but apparently it was often decided by district administrators: ANA,
Códice 10,445.
See 1954 Native Statute, Section II, Article 26, keeping in force article 13 from Decree
16,473 (6 February 1929).
as far as they were not against morals, humanity and Portuguese sovereignty'.133
Favouring unitary judiciary organization, he claimed 'the recognition of native
institutions should be only transient and with the necessary distortion'.134
Juridical dualism, however imperfect, depended on codification for full
implementation and any form of indirect rule needed old or reshaped African
chieftaincies. The Portuguese colonial state had no means to do the former and in
most of Angola it had destroyed or seriously undermined the latter by military
conquest, taxation and taking over their former functions, while Christianization
undermined their spiritual role.135 Yet, the creation of 'native' special Courts
(Tribunais Privativos dos Indígenas) after the Native Statute and the acceptance of
'native custom' in certain judicial decisions confirmed the duality in the judicial and
penal system demanded by the citizen/native divide, without implying judicial
powers for African chiefs and headmen.136 The 1933 Overseas Administration
Reform confirmed the auxiliary role of those autoridades gentílicas in keeping law
and order and controlling peoples' movements but with no autonomy to deal with
crime: they should report it and send offenders to the nearest Portuguese authority.137
This quick overview of 'native courts', their juridical framework and changes in
colonial doctrine is necessary to contextualize the application of the law in Huambo.
Obviously, what happened on the ground depended also on circumstances and many
Adriano Moreira, 'Administração de justiça aos indígenas', Separata da Revista do
Gabinete de Estudos Ultramarinos, 5-6 (1952), 10. Also 13-14 and 16-17 for important
elements of the system. For a detailed discussion of the 'native courts', Ribeiro,
Adriano Moreira, 'A revogação do Acto Colonial', Separata da Revista do Gabinete de
Estudos Ultramarinos, (1951), 11-13. See also Silva Cunha, 'O conflito colonial de leis: Seu
regime no Direito Português', O Direito, 82 (1950), 2, 81-100.
Without a Native Code, some administrators considered ridiculous their judging
functions based on native advisors' 'incoherent opinions'. Laboreiro, Circunscrição, 18. In
the 1940s, experts accused the lack of codification of causing serious problems in 'native'
justice: Ribeiro, Regulamento, 3.
Cf. Reyntjens 'Development', 115-117 (for Belgian colonies) and Lucy Mair, Native
Policies, 76 (for Southern Rhodesia).
A recent discussion on their role in Portuguese colonies is Philip Havik, '''Direct" or
"indirect" rule? Reconsidering the role of appointed chiefs and native employees in
Portuguese West Africa', Africana Studia, (2011), 29-56.
cases were 'judged' by soma and sekulu, catechists or missionaries. After 1930, at
least in Huambo, formal procedures at Native Courts were simplified and in the
1950s defendants were simply sent to the administrator who decided their fate. So,
whether by conviction or by incapacity, the use of 'native courts' and of 'native
customary law' imposed by the Native Statute was arbitrary and driven by
circumstances rather than by the law.138
Criminal offences often went on being defined ad hoc, beyond the written law,
most commonly to repress whatever could be seen as defiant to the social and racial
hierarchy but also for more prosaic reasons like maintaining a cheap labour force. In
Angola as elsewhere, 'the colonial prison was instrumental in manufacturing cheap
labour for settlers and, at a different level, in consolidating racial inequalities'.139
Indeed, it happened that 'native' prisoners in Huambo increased in certain months,
with round-ups in correlation with labour demands.140 The most frequent charges
were failure to pay the annual 'native tax' and lack of documents: non-residents had
to carry not only the Caderneta indígena (working pass) but also a guia de trânsito
(travel permit) and forgetting it justified imprisonment. In the 1950s, with growing
urbanisation, many urban dwellers avoided registration to escape taxes and labour
recruitment, but they had to be lucky not to be caught.141 Those 'crimes', together
Coissoró, a specialist in Portuguese 'native' policies since the 1960s, wrote later on that
'the experiment of the so called 'indigenous private courts' did not last long …. The formal
solution that was found was to transfer the administration of justice to the administrative
authorities (the Administration Court)' assisted by 'traditional chiefs who knew the law'.
Narana Coissoró, 'African Customary Law in the Former Portuguese Territories, 19541974', Journal of African Law, 28 (1984), 73-4.
Bernault, 'The shadow', 68.
For instance, from fisheries in Benguela or coffee and palm-oil plantations in KwanzaSul. This paragraph is based on thousands of daily registries of where, when, why and how
long 'natives' were put in prison. ANA, Códices 3,464; 3,459; 3,545; 3,556; 3,724; 3,736;
4,382; 4,412; 4,473; 6,874; 7,444; 9;985; 9,578; 10,411. Other Códices gave detailed
descriptions of 'court cases' in earlier years: ANA, Códices 4,422; 4,423; 4,426; 4,474;
Of the 392 'natives' detained between October 1951 and June 1952, unpaid taxes
accounted for almost half and 'lack of documents' for 31 percent: ANA, Códice 3,724. Most
of the over 400 detained between July 1954 and November 1959 were accused of 'lack of
documents': ANA, Códice 9,578.
with 'lack of respect' for whites, 'evasion from workplace', 'escape from contract' and
'vagrancy' were specific to the colonial situation. Others were part of the
criminalization of the urban poor, as once had been the case in European cities:
surprisingly heavy punishment (several days in prison) was applied for small thefts
like a cup of cassava flour or a chorizo, and 'bad behaviour' leading to prison
included drunkenness, prostitution, small disturbances but also 'dressing too poorly'
in town. The severity of punishment for attempted or actual offences against any
white person gave the measure of racial distinction: a simple 'lack of respect' was
punished with ten days in prison, but if physical violence was involved it could cause
deportation to southern Angola. That was a more serious 'crime' than striking a
cipaio who, despite being a representative of authority, was black.142
Chanock summarized the consequences of 'the legal encounter' as being
'individualization rights and bureaucratization without the rule of law'.143 In Angola,
the rationale behind the Native Statute implied the existence of Native Courts, but in
practice, the definition of crime and punishment were often left to the arbitrary
decision of officials and civil servants, initially with some intervention of 'native'
advisors. At least until 1961, the system worked with colonial administrative
authorities being rulers, legislators and judges. Such concentration of power and the
very fact that definitions of 'crime' were different for 'citizens' and 'natives', was
certainly neither an example of the 'rule of law' nor the best introduction of 'modern'
European judicial systems to Africans. Moreover, the absence of kinship and alliance
networks to moderate the new rulers' power made the situation worse than with
former autocratic African powers.
In 1934 a servant 'threatening' to beat a white woman was sentenced to sixty days in
prison while heavily beating a cipaio was punished with 6 days in prison. ANA, Códice
Chanock, 'Law Market', 305.
Looking for a way out
The self-justifying ideology of 'race' supremacy was challenged on many fronts
during and after the Second World War, with European metropoles establishing
'development' as their new colonial doctrine and facing anti-colonial protests and
African nationalism.144 By the late 1950s, Portugal stood alone in deciding to hold
onto its empire at all costs and moved its colonial discourse back to 'assimilation' and
'integration'.145 That represented a shift from existing mainstream doctrine and even
Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre's thesis about the Portuguese supposedly special
aptitude for living in the tropics and producing mixed-race offspring, had been
ignored except for a few intellectuals who understood its ideological potential.146 It
was not the case with Marcelo Caetano whose 'fundamental principles of modern
Portuguese colonization' included 'political unity' and 'economic solidarity' but
insisted on 'administrative differentiation' until the colonized became 'civilized
Portuguese' via 'cultural assimilation'.147 Salazar himself, however, chose the 'unity
of the pluricontinental nation' and in 1953 Portuguese colonies became 'Overseas
Provinces', despite distinct laws, courts, currency and taxes.148
Swimming against the decolonization tide, the discourse of a multiracial and
multi-continental Portuguese nation pervaded textbooks, literature and the media.
Mulattoes were no more seen as the collateral damage of colonization but the symbol
See Cooper, Colonialism and 'Development' but also Decolonization and African
Society: The Labor Question in French and British Africa (Cambridge, 1996).
Discussion and references in my own article 'Ideologias, contradições e mistificações da
colonização de Angola no século XX', Lusotopie, (1997), 327-59.
After travelling in the Portuguese empire by official invitation, Freyre wrote an illinformed book about it: Aventura e Rotina (Lisbon, 1952). On reception of Freyre's theories
in Portugal, see Cláudia Castelo, "O Modo Português de Estar no Mundo": O Lusotropicalismo e a Ideologia Colonial Portuguesa (1933-1961) (Porto, 1998).
Marcelo Caetano, Tradição, Princípios e Métodos da Colonização Portuguesa (Lisbon,
1951). Later on, Caetano recalled his position against 'integration, the new modality of
nineteenth-century assimilation'. Marcelo Caetano, Depoimento, (Rio de Janeiro, 1974), 204. For an 'assimilation' supporter, see Augusto Casimiro, Angola e o Futuro (Alguns
Problemas Fundamentais) (Lisbon, 1959).
Law 2,066, 27 June 1953: Lei Orgânica do Ultramar Português (replacing Carta
Orgânica do Império Colonial). New terminology aimed at denying the colonial status of
Portuguese ruled African territories.
and evidence of supposed anti-racism, as Lusotropicalism claimed that Portuguese
rule was based on affectivity rather than violence. After Brazil, the Portuguese were
supposedly creating 'new worlds in the tropics' and would stay forever.149 From the
outbreak of the anticolonial war in 1961, however, lusitanidade ('lusitanity') and
portugalidade ('portugality') were preferred concepts since comparisons with Brazil
hinted at independence.150
Paradoxically, as Lusotropicalism was being advanced in defence of
Portuguese colonialism, race relations in Angola were being strained by new waves
of settlers and a reformulated Native Statute which made 'citizenship' harder to
obtain by 'blacks and their descendants'. Taxes, working passes, forced labour,
circulation restrictions, and official and unofficial segregation could hardly be seen
as a progressive 'integration'.151 Yet, the Portuguese government was out of touch
and in January 1960, one year before the bloody uprisings in northern Angola,
Governor-General Silva Tavares praised its integration policy, derived from the
Portuguese 'spontaneous' aptitude for 'mixing' with others, the true key for
assimilation and the best defence against racist African nationalisms.152
Readings of 'race', of course, vary according to the situation of the observer:
photographs of white and mixed-race people sharing restaurants, beaches or New
Year parties in colonial Angola may look as fraternization with 'Africans' to
In Angola, some used Freyre's theories to counteract racial segregation: 'Lusotropicalism
… is the only possible solution in southern Africa. No construction will be viable based on
extermination or segregation of aboriginal populations. Their integration in our ethnic group
(etnia) and our civilization corresponds to the demands of God and Nature': Alberto Lemos,
I Congresso dos Economistas Portugueses. Problemas das Economias ultramarinas : IV
Secção, Colonização étnica. Comunicação e Debates (Lisbon, 1955), 12.
'Portugalidade' was a 'vehicle of Western civilization in Angola': António Ferronha,
Consciência da Luso-Tropicalidade (Luanda, 1969), 6. See too Léopold S. Senghor,
Lusitanidade e Negritude (Lisbon, 1975).
For a detailed analysis of 'indigenato' in Angola, see Christine Messiant, 1961. L'Angola
Colonial, Histoire et Société (Bâle, 2006), 69-118. Racial segregation was still part of
Portuguese mainstream politics in the 1950s: 'O princípio e as práticas da Unidade Política:
uma notável comunicação do Sr. Engº Raul Martins ao Congresso da União Nacional', A
Província de Angola, 3 and 4 July 1956.
Planalto, 19 January 1960, 1: 'A new era in Africa's history began'.
American eyes, while Angolans immediately notice the absence of blacks as
evidence of segregation. The odd black person in 'white' social spaces, in a country
where non-blacks were a tiny minority, made race discrimination only more evident
even if no law allowed 'whites only' venues. Officially, non-white 'citizens' could not
be discriminated against and black and mixed-race individuals appeared across status
and class divisions, but the lighter their skin the easier they moved up.153 Unlike the
United States, Portugal never used the 'one-drop' criterion and both statistics and
perceptions of 'race' in Angola considered mestiços a third category, neither black
nor white. The legal expression of race discrimination was the Native Statute and
related legislation, since cultural and economic preconditions to become a 'citizen'
were imposed only on 'blacks and their descendants'.
The language and practice of racial segregation varied greatly but in the 1950s
colonial discourse and practice were at opposite ends. In Huambo, a more aggressive
racism accompanied the post-war 'whitening' of the city following rising Portuguese
immigration, but overt racism became politically incorrect in print: while in the early
1940s the undisputable supremacy of 'the white race' was openly voiced, in the 1950s
racially biased comments or demands would claim 'this is not racism!' at some
Leisure activities are a good entry point to discuss race relations and cultural
differences, but my main sources (official archives, missionary reports and a
newspaper focused on white settlers) provide little information about black people
when they were not performing their working or devotional tasks. A fragmentary
vision of other aspects of life, however, can be gained from oral sources. Apart from
religious activities, weekends were used for paying visits to friends and relatives;
playing or watching football; going to the Kanye market or 'to the centre' to watch
Race 'enhancement' ('adiantar a raça') defined the strategy, especially by women, of
having children with someone of a lighter skin, a 'white' if possible.
Voz, 6 November 1943, 1; 21 February, 3; 9 October 1952, 7; 11 December 1952, 3.
'city life'. A passion for football cut across race and social status but clubs and
associations were selective and only the best or the lucky 'native' players could aspire
to be accepted in 'civilized' teams. In suburban areas, taverns and shops selling
alcohol were important places of conviviality places, especially for men.155 Free or
'subscription' dancing parties used live music, often mixing 'traditional' drums with
'modern' guitars and harmonicas, or record players working on car batteries replacing
old wind-up gramophones.156
Differences of social status certainly influenced sociability but age and gender
were decisive in the choice of leisure activities. Race was an issue, despite the
existence of spaces where inter-racial socialization was possible, like markets,
football fields and some suburban residential areas. However, according to all
informants, the presence of young white men among black suburban partygoers was
not matched by a presence of white girls or a similar presence of black youth in
parties organized by predominantly 'white' associations. Cinema, present in Huambo
since the early days, was another example: the building of a cinema in the suburban
bairro of São João which accepted 'natives' in 1952 raised fears about 'weak and illformed spirits' watching whites perpetrating crimes or romantic scenes involving
white women.157
The closer 'blacks and their descendants' were to whites, both in geographic and
sociological terms, the more they resented the racist rationale behind the system.
'Natives' were excluded from buying and selling property, sending their children to
the secondary school, travelling in the same train carriages with 'civilized' people or
Cf. Penvenne, African Workers, 40, on Maputo's cantinas. In Angola the businesses
belonged to Portuguese settlers, sometimes to Cape-Verdeans.
Interview with Raul David, Luanda, 7 October 1994. Raul David, 'É um erro crasso
afirmar-se que a Kilapanga veio de S. Tomé', Jornal de Angola, 15 August 1993.
Voz, 4 September 1952, 7. On ambulatory cinema: Voz, 11 January 1951, 3. On the
Catholic Church and 'adequate' movies for 'natives': Voz, 7 May 1953, 2. On cinema, moral
corruption and political subversion in 'backward civilization territories': Idem, 7. Also
Eduardo de Azevedo, 'A influência perniciosa do cinema sobre a mentalidade primária dos
não-civilizados', Mensário Administrativo, 63-64 (1952), 17-18.
entering most cinemas and clubs. As a few politicians and scholars then recognized,
economic and social changes produced thousands of 'natives' whose literacy,
occupation and living standards made them 'civilized' de facto but not de jure.158
Ignoring so many 'progressive natives' (indígenas evoluídos) reinforced a 'politically
undesirable distinction between blacks and whites' instead of a 'desirable distinction'
between civilized and non-civilized. 159
Back in 1941, Marcelo Caetano failed to introduce an intermediary category
between citizenship and indigenato for those who 'were not exactly natives but it
would be inaccurate to considered … non-natives': equal in civil and commercial
laws to the Europeans from whom they 'had adopted economic processes and ways
of living' but subject to the Native Statute in political and criminal matters because
they lacked the 'moral conceptions' of the civilized. The imperial advisory board, the
Conselho Ultramarino, also suggested distinguishing those 'under tribal regime' from
the 'detribalized', but that was rejected.160
So, while since the mid-1940s France and Britain were 'trying to construct some
kind of junior citizenship through which colonized people could partake of some, but
not all, of the qualities of a metropolitan citizen', Portugal produced in 1954 a stricter
version of the Native Statute.161 With many more articles (67, compared to 22 in
1926) the procedures became a bureaucratic nightmare, far from the looser ways of
the former years. The candidates should prove that they possessed the 'individual and
social habits needed for the full application of public and private law of Portuguese
citizens', including house inspection. Yet, the 1954 Statute reflected the return of
Moreira called for a study of 'assimilados de facto' to establish if they were part of a
'non-revolutinary intermediate class' or if they could be 'attracted to potentially revolutionay
political action'. Adriano Moreira, Política Ultramarina (Lisbon, 1956), 142. Messiant in
L'Angola and Luanda paid careful attention to differences between de facto and de jure
'assimilados', and inside each group.
Soares, Política, 204-10. He thought urbanization plans based on people's economic
resources should help 'interpenetration of whites and blacks'.
Soares, Política, 222-3; Cunha, 'O enquadramento'.
Cooper, Decolonization, 266-7.
'assimilation' as the final objective while the first Statute followed the 'association'
and segregationist general trend of the 1920s. Back then, 'natives' were not part of the
Portuguese nation; the 1954 version attempted to reconcile segregation and a 'multicontinental and multiracial Portugal' and 'natives' became 'Portuguese natives'
(indígenas portugueses) but not 'Portuguese citizens' (cidadãos portugueses).162
In Huambo, where job availability and training opportunities were expanding,
the legal status bar was clearly blocking social mobility. By law, most state jobs were
reserved for 'civilized' persons and when 'natives' were employed, out of necessity,
they were paid less. Wages everywhere had two standards: no matter how skilled a
'native' could be, his or her payment was always inferior. A 'native' could drive a car
or a truck, if necessary, but he would not be allowed to get a driving licence, so
officially no 'native' drivers existed. As for land tenure, the 1954 Statute did grant
individual land property rights, but under such conditions that made it extremely
difficult to obtain. Land disputes could only be taken to court by 'civilizados', with
few exceptions.
The colonial system generated unofficial ways of climbing the social ladder,
with personal relationships and shared commercial interests used to circumvent the
lack of legal opportunities. Examples were client-patron ties, the protection of
godchildren by godparents, or informal schooling set up by literate 'native' or
'civilized' blacks. But only citizenship could open the way for wages, property,
housing or education equal to white people. No deeper motivation was needed;
getting Portuguese citizenship was part of a strategy of survival and adaptation to a
brutal and unfair system.
Statute 1926 and Statute 1954.
Between 1954 and 1961 the number of citizenship applicants grew steadily in
Huambo and throughout Angola, despite regional differences.163 The fact that they
were a tiny minority among 'natives' did not reflect a general lack of interest in
citizenship benefits but rather the deterrent effect of the entire procedure. For most
people, pre-conditions were out of reach. As a Portuguese civil servant wrote: 'We
demand a minimum monthly wage of 600 escudos to grant a citizen's ID card; but
without that Bilhete de Identidade, how can they get a 600 escudos job?'.164 For those
too distant from opportunities of better employment or education, the expensive
bureaucratic process was not worthwhile. Citizenship would also be of little interest
for some chiefs or important cattle owners, wealthy enough to escape the worst
constraints of the indigenato. Catholic catechists, exempt since 1944 from 'native'
taxation and labour recruitment, would ponder over their chances of getting it. But
for the majority, Portuguese citizenship would mean better jobs and no more 'native'
taxes, forced labour, police harassment and physical punishment. Economic
limitations and the complicated and humiliating process to achieve 'citizenship'
explained the relatively low number of applicants.
Moreover, it was not easy to maintain the supposed citizens' living standards
demanded by a legal status which could be reversed at any time by colonial authorities.
Application files kept in Angolan archives attest to Kafkaesque legal procedures but
also to occasional deceiving tactics in favour of applicants, by merchants, missionary
personnel or civil servants. The citizenship 'permit'165 application had to be joined by
certified documents confirming: birth place and parents' names (certidão de
nascimento); no criminal record (registo criminal); ability to read and write in
In 'Portuguese Congo', after a threefold rise between 1955 and 1959 they were
diminishing, partly influenced by anticolonial propaganda from Belgian Congo. Hélio
Felgas 'Sugestão particular e confidencial' (November 1960), AHU, MU/GM/GNP/SR: 087.
'Autos de averiguações administrativas para concessão de alvará de cidadania', ANA,
Pastas, Huambo, (1957-1961) [hereafter Pastas 'Cidadania']
Alvará de cidadania, the new name for atestado de assimilação.
Portuguese (certidão de habilitações); good civic and moral behaviour (written
statement by administrative authorities); vaccination certificate; and economic
resources compatible with a 'civilized' life style.166 All papers went up to the District
Administrator through successive officials' scrutiny, taking weeks or months between
the date of the first paper and the final decision. A small mistake could bring it all
back down to the applicant; by then, many documents were no longer valid and
he/she had to start again. However, the worst part was house inspection to establish if
the applicant's family was 'civilized' enough: everything was checked, from furniture
to food and clothes. Children were forbidden from going barefoot and women
wearing traditional cloths or unable to speak Portuguese were relegated to the
backyard as non-family, vexing family elders. That was resented as particularly racist
and humiliating since many white people would not have a cleaner or betterequipped house and their children would run barefoot without their 'civilization'
being questioned.167 It was common knowledge that inspectors could be deceived by
borrowed furniture and kitchenware, but other aspects could not be faked.
Between 1956 and 1961, 542 out of 560 requests for citizenship registered in
Huambo District Administration received a positive answer. In 1956 only 12 out of
22 applicants got the citizenship but numbers rose afterwards. In 1960 there were
193 applicants and only one failed and in 1961 there were still 33 applications,
before the Statute ended.168 Examination of complete files of 378 individuals give an
interesting overview of who the applicants were: more than half declared to live in
Huambo's urban or suburban bairros, 42 indicated the Congregational Mission of
Ndondi and twenty named Catholic Missions. About 80 percent of the total were
Cf. Belgian Congo since 1953: immatriculation (registration) depended on showing by
'training and way of life a state of civilisation implying the ability to enjoy the rights and to
fulfil the duties provided by the written laws'. Reyntjens, 'Development', 117.
In 1961, the Angola Natives' Guardian Sousa recognized that many people were not
'assimilated' just because they feared vexation in that preliminary inspection. AHU,
ANA, Códice 11,693.
between 21 and 44 years old, and more than 17 percent were under 21 (legally
underage, probably trying to get access to secondary schools).169 Among the only 13
women, six from the town and four from Ndondi Mission, there was one teacher, one
servant and 11 without occupation. Diversity of occupation was pronounced among
men: more than forty different jobs, led by teachers (17 percent), male nurses (13
percent) and tailors (10 percent). Other occupations included drivers, state
employees, railwaymen, orderlies, students, farmers, tractor drivers, catechists,
typographers and a variety of skilled workers such as mechanics and carpenters.170
The indigenato system had come to a dead end and many high ranking civil
servants were in favour of reforming it, although only a few advocated its total
suppression. The system was considered unfair and unjustifiable in 'cultural' terms
but many feared the huge consequences on taxation and labour recruitment if
'natives' were turned into 'citizens'.171 It would be, wrote the Angola Natives'
Guardian in May 1961, an 'unbearable situation' for the state, left without the native
tax and the thousands of people used in public works, not to mention the fact that
'equality' could lead to 'anarchy' as in Belgian Congo and that 'the European
population was not in a state of mind to accept the Statute revocation'.172 In fact, the
Native Statute was abolished a few months later, amidst the reformist wave that
followed the 1961 uprisings in Angola.173
An industrial and commercial trade school began by local initiative in 1949 and became
official in 1952: Voz, 2 April 1949, 10; 14 June 1951, 1; 21 February 1952, 8. The highschool, long demanded by white settlers, was inaugurated in 1956 in the premises of the
Commercial Association: Voz, 4 October 1956.
ANA, Pastas 'Cidadania'. I thank Fernando Gonçalo for helping in collecting data from
those files.
Important documents on the subject in 'Revogação do Estatuto do Indigenato (19561961)', AHU, MU/GM/GNP/SR087.
A.B. Sousa, 'Parecer da Curadoria Geral dos Indígenas', 3 May 1961, AHU,
Decree 43,893, 6 September 1961. Adriano Moreira was Overseas Minister. More about
legislation changes: 'Reformas de Legislação Ultramarina (1955-1963)', AHU,
During the 1950s, Salazar's opposition to decolonization consolidated an image of
sui generis Portuguese colonialism, whether observers tended to subscribe to the
myth of racial harmony or to denounce exploitation of African labour. The brutality
of colonialism in the French and British colonies was being 'redeemed' by
'development' policies and independence prospects, while Portuguese colonies stood
as examples of economic and political backwardness. But Portuguese rulers counted
on Angola's economic potential to bring foreign investment into their project of more
intense colonization.
Analysis of social change in Huambo can not be reduced to the city alone as it
was deeply embedded in its rural surroundings from the beginning. That was still the
case in the 1950s. If peasants produced the bulk of economic wealth and fed the city,
waged work became more common, diversified and skilled. But proletarianization
was retarded by ridiculously low salaries, available land for subsistence and cash
crops, informal businesses and also kin and non-kin networks acting as safety nets.
Persistence of the 'Native Statute' conditioned peoples' lives in an evolving
environment where the legal status was a more important social marker than
occupation, education or religion. 'Race' was important in the city's layout but its
intended racial segregation had been clearly subverted in some neighbourhoods,
especially due to low income white settlers. The section on social control and 'public
order' provides evidence of how violent, arbitrary and absurd colonial 'justice' could
be, confirming that the rule of law was hardly part of the colonial legacy.
In the search for a way out of indigenato constraints, 'natives' used migration,
deception, tax evasion and every possibility offered by the system. Application for
Portuguese citizenship implied cultural assimilation but it was mainly a strategy to
improve family life and did not necessarily result in political accommodation, let
alone in the rejection of an 'African identity'. Despite obvious advantages, the
position of black 'citizens' in closer contact with whites, to whom skin colour was a
social asset, made them even more 'race' conscious and resentful of colonial rule.
The Portuguese conquest of the kingdom of Wambu in 1902 was a political landmark
in the history of Angola's central plateau. The termination of Umbundu sovereignty,
however, was not accompanied by an abrupt transition in the social and economic
history of the region. Long before the military conquest, the region was already part
of the economic network serving the colonial economy of Angola. Despite the harsh
conditions imposed on the defeated peoples, moreover, the old pattern of European
trading on the plateau persisted and relations between the Portuguese administration
and African villagers continued to be mediated by their remaining headmen and
olosoma. In time, the Portuguese colonial state consolidated its power over the
subjugated population through taxation, labour exploitation, forced displacement and
removal of the old hierarchies – unless, that is they proved useful for population
control. The new urban centre of Huambo was founded at the heart of this emerging
web of colonial control.
At the core of Portuguese colonial rule in the twentieth century was the divide
between 'civilized' and 'native'. Specific legislation applied to the vast majority of socalled 'blacks and their descendents', culminating in the Native Statute in 1926. The
1926 code levelled people of diverse origins and social positions into the colonial
category of 'native', with far-reaching consequences for the social mobility of
Africans. Becoming highly bureaucratized in the 1950s, this legal divide cut across
neighbourhoods and households and pushed out individuals and groups previously
accepted as 'Portuguese citizens'. The persistence of the Native Statute made personal
legal status a more important social marker than ethnicity, occupation, education or
religion. Through a case-study of Huambo and its rural hinterland, this study
demonstrates how important the Native Statute was, not only in extracting financial
and human resources from colonized peoples but also in protecting the supremacy of
white settlers in Angola, where as late as 1940 the 'non-whites' represented more than
half of the so-called 'civilized population'.
In 1912, exactly one hundred years ago from the time of writing, Huambo was
founded as part of a envisaged project of large-scale white settlement. The city was
supposed to grow inside well-defined limits, keeping its 'civilized' (mostly white) and
'native' populations clearly apart. However, throughout the period covered by this
research, its white population grew more slowly than planned. Part of it, moreover,
settled in that part of the town's periphery initially designated for ‘natives’. So, 'race'
was always important in the city's layout, as it was in Angolan colonial society at
large, but racial segregation was clearly subverted in some neighbourhoods. That,
however, did not suppress African resentment towards a pervasive racism in a
society where skin colour did not by itself define one's social position but was the
first criterion to classify the non-'civilized'. As for other perceived differences,
whether ethno-linguistic or religious, apparently they caused no problem in mixed
neighbourhoods in Huambo.
Trade was paramount to the city's economic life and its role in the colonial
economy depended on the surplus of African peasant production, especially maize.
That created economic opportunities for African villagers, challenging accounts of an
overall decay after the loss of political autonomy by the VaWambu and other
Ovimbundu peoples. The expansion of agriculture and local trade, boosted by the
railway after 1910, was for a while a story of success rather than one of
impoverishment. Even the growth in the urban population did not mean the
abandonment of agriculture, but its complementary role for most urban and periurban households. Despite its ambitions of being a 'modern' European city, Huambo
developed an extensive interface with its rural hinterland which, in turn, was shaped
by its proximity with, and its relation to, the town, further confirming the artificiality
of any perceived dichotomy between the urban and the rural. Yet, this is not to say
that such a duality did not exist in the perception of Huambo's inhabitants: it did, and
town dwellers saw themselves as distinct from, and as more progressive than, their
'rural' relatives.
In this region of central Angola, Christianization proved to be the main factor
of cultural reconfiguration. It undermined the old societies while fostering new
hierarchies and forms of social organization. In Christian missions and their outposts,
'natives' developed a space of their own, forging new social networks and new skills
that they used to improve their own lives. They developed a sense of pride and selfconfidence they could hardly get elsewhere in the colonial situation. In Huambo,
Catholics were an overwhelming majority, but their importance has been overlooked
in scholarly work. The undeniable involvement of the Catholic hierarchy with
Portuguese colonialism should not divert the attention of historians away from
different missionary strategies and, above all, from the strategies and achievements
of Angolan converts. The establishment of a Catholic mission on the outskirts of
Huambo represented the recognition by the Church of a steady growth of the urban
population, although it also reflected and condoned the racial cleavage in the colonial
society, replicated in the parish/mission divide.
The history of Huambo after 1961 is beyond the scope of this study, for the
reasons explained in the Introduction. A few concluding remarks, however, will
serve to sketch the fluctuating fortunes of the city over the past five decades. The
Portuguese response to the armed struggle for national liberation that opened in 1961
involved political reform, increased economic investment and expanding white
immigration, all of which had a profound impact on Huambo. The city grew rapidly,
with two industrial zones developing on its outskirts which finally challenged the
predominance of trade in the urban economy. By 1970, Huambo was an industrial
centre of 62,000 inhabitants, second in size only to Luanda. Once the abolition of the
Native Statute removed the legal barriers to a unified educational system in 1964, the
black school population grew rapidly, limited only by the economic resources of
each family. That and the possibility of getting jobs once reserved for non-'natives'
had a positive impact in the social mobility of many Africans, despite competition
from European immigrants. However, rapid urban expansion kept wages low, while
in the hinterland land availability diminished and soil exhaustion affected agriculture,
resulting in the flow of migrant workers to the northern and coastal regions of
Angola reaching unprecedented levels.
In April 1974, a coup d'état in Lisbon initiated a revolutionary process in
Portugal, leading to negotiations for the independence of the colonies. Between 1974
and 1975, most of the white population left Huambo and Angola. Many other
residents left the city temporarily, owing to the escalating military conflict between
the rival Angolan nationalist movements. In February 1976, the forces of the MPLA
government expelled UNITA, which had occupied Huambo since August 1975.
Unable to retake the city in the years that followed, UNITA destroyed railway and
road bridges and targeted many buildings, including the CCFB premises, with
explosive devices. Peace negotiations in 1991 followed by the first general elections
in 1992 did not bring peace, since Jonas Savimbi, the UNITA leader, rejected the
electoral results. After two months of renewed fighting, UNITA again controlled the
city from early 1993 to late 1994, when it was retaken by government forces. After a
second short-lived peace agreement, civil war resumed and conditions in Huambo
deteriorated as many thousands sought shelter in the city from the war ravaging the
surrounding countryside. In 2002, the war finally ended. Now, with roads, bridges
and the railway rebuilt and with investment increasing, Huambo is again progressing
and trying to heal the damage inflicted on its material and social fabric by the
decades of war. That, however, is another chapter in the history of the city.
Faustino Nunes Muteka (Kapoko), Luanda, 16 February 1991 and 6 April 1991.
Raul Mateus David, Luanda, 7 October 1994, 9 October 1994, 14 October 1994, 27
October 1994 and 4 November 1994.
Alberto Sehululu, Luanda, 21 March 2001.
Pedro Almeida Capumba, Luanda, 20 January 2006.
Fernando Pacheco, Luanda, 8 September 2005.
Guilherme Santos, Luanda, 17 May 2010.
Arquivo Nacional de Angola (ANA), Luanda.
Avulsos - Caixas (Boxes, loose papers)
Bailundo (for the period before 1912): 644, 877, 1366, 2446, 3533, 3831, 4023,
4881, 5642, 5644, 5645, 5646, 5647, 5648, 5649.
Huambo (after c. 1910): 416, 443, 447, 448, 466, 480, 496, 531.
Avulsos - Pastas (Folders)
'Autos de averiguações administrativas para concessão de alvará de cidadania',
Huambo, 1957-1961.
Códices (Bound papers) - Huambo:
Taxation registries, Huambo Posto Militar and Circunscrição Civil (1908-1937):
Códices 9,548; 9,862; 3,725; 10,584; 9,862; 9,890; 9,909; 9,910; 9,911; 9,912; 9,918
to 9,937; 9,941; 9,956, 9,958; 9,968; 9,969; 9,970; 9,972.
Specifically related to Cipaios: Códices 3,499; 3,510; 3,512; 4,245; 4,481; 4,482;
6,809; 9,554; 9,847; 9,851; 9,863; 11,980; 10,077.
Registries from the Tribunal Privativo dos Indígenas or related to imprisonment of
'natives': Códices 3,464; 3,459; 3,545; 3,556; 3,724; 3,736; 4,422; 4,423; 4,426;
4,465; 4,474; 4,471; 4,382; 4,412; 4,473; 6,874; 7,444; 9;985; 9,578; 10,411.
Agência da Curadoria do Concelho do Huambo (Natives' Guardian Office): Códices
3,520; 4,226; 4,352; 6,014; 7,117; 10,959; 10,960 and 11,955, 7,487; 7,495; 7,508;
7,542; 7,553; 7,773; 7,438; 9,852.
Other Códices mentioned in the text: 3,479; 3,563; 4,076; 4,156; 4,441; 7,020; 7,375;
9,512; 9,840; 9,841; 9,949; 9,950; 10,001; 10,396; 10,445; 11,693.
Other Códices used: 3,620; 3,716; 4,417; 4,466; 3,717; 3,719; 4,224; 4,228; 4,062;
4,076; 4,122; 4,186; 1,217; 4,220; 4,252; 4,258; 4,307; 4,415; 7,158; 7,166; 7,444;
9,916; 9,718; 9,861; 10,105; 10,395; 10,397; 10,400; 10,448.
Archives générales spiritaines (ACSSp), Chevilly-Larue.
3L - Angola
Folders: 3L1.20 a; 3L1.20 b1; 3L1.20 b3; 3L1.20 b5; 3L1.23 a3; 3L1.26 a1; 3L1.26
a2; 3L1.28 b; 3L1.25 b3; 3L1.29 a; 3L1.29 b; 3L1.30 a2; 3L1.30 b; 3L1.31 b; 3L1.32
b; 3L1.32 a; 3L1 25 a3; 3L1.27 b3.
Arquivo Histórico Militar (AHM), Lisbon.
Second division, Second section - Angola.
Caixas (Boxes) and Documentos (Files):
Box 23: Files 2 and 13; Box 25: Files 18 and 19; Box 26: Files 1 and 6; Box 27: Files
10, 11; Box 30: File 15; Box 36: File 51, 52; Box 43: Files 3, 5, 11; Box 47: Files 9,
14, 16, 17 and 18; Box 74: Files 8, 13 and 15; Box 89: File 1; Box 161: Files 15, 17,
18 and 24; Box 194: File 7.
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MU/GM/GNP/SR184: Folder 1.
MU/GM/GNP/ SR135: Folders 34, 35, 37, 39 and 40.
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Box 285 - West Central Africa - File K.
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JAH - Journal of African History
JACS - Journal of African Cultural Studies
JSAS - Journal of Southern African Studies
CJAS - Canadian Journal of African Studies
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BSGL - Boletim da Sociedade de Geigrafia de Lisboa
CEAUP - Centro de Estudos Africanos da Universidade do Porto
CEHCA/IICT - Centro de Estudos de História e Cartografia Antiga/Instituto de Investigação
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CNCDP - Comissão Nacional para as Comemorações dos Descobrimentos Portugueses
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Map 1. The Angolan central plateau and its main polities by the late nineteenth
century. Gladwyn M. Childs. 'The chronology of the Ovimbundu kingdoms'. JAH, 11
(1970), 162.
Map 2. Political divisions and historical dates. Gladwyn M. Childs. Umbundu Kinship
and Character. London, 1949, 166.
Map 3. Sketch of the last independent capital of Wambu, Samisasa. Gladwyn M. Childs.
'The kingdom of Wambu (Huambo): A tentative chronology', JAH, 5 (1964), 375.
Map 4. The network of the Catholic missions in the 1930s, showing the importance
of Spiritan missionaries in the Huambo region. Alves da Cunha. Missões Católicas
de Angola. Luanda, 1935.
Map 5. Huambo: the first plan of the city. Carlos Roma Machado. 'A Cidade do
Huambo. Primeira cidade portugueza no Planalto de Benguela'. Revista de Engenharia
Militar, 18 (1913).
Map 6. Huambo: detail from the 1947 urban plan, showing the civic centre.
(IPAD/MU 4.694/1485).
Map 7. Huambo and neighbouring areas. Based on aerial photographs made in 1953.
Junta das Missões Geográficas e de Investigações do Ultramar. Missão Geográfica
de Angola. Carta de Angola (1:100.000). Levantamento Aerofotogramétrico, 1958.
Figure 1. Catechists from the Huambo (Kwando) mission, 1928. ACSSp, 3L1.32b,
'Photos d’Angola'.
Figure 2. Near Huambo (Kwando) mission, 1949. Note the various dress styles. ACSSp,
Figure 3. The Municipal Council in the late 1920s. (My personal collection)
Figure 4. A so-called avenue in the 1920s, a symbol of the distance between
prospect and reality: Avenida da Granja. (My personal collection)
Figure 5. Aspect of the city in the late 1950s. Actividade Económica de Angola,
Figure 6. One of the Huambo's main squares in the late 1950s. Actividade
Económica de Angola, 1958.
Figure 7
Figure 8
Figure 9
Figure 10. This and Figures 7, 8 and 9: some pages from a Caderneta indígena, the
identification document for the so-called 'natives'. ANA, Avulsos, Caixa 443.
Figure 11. Bilhete de Identidade, identification document for the whites and the socalled 'civilized' non-whites. ANA, Avulsos, Caixa 443.